Keith Thomas is a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. He is the author of The Ends of Life: Roads to Fulfilment in Early Modern England. (May 2016)

IN THE REVIEW

Was There Always an England?

Alfred Morgan: An Omnibus Ride to Piccadilly Circus, Mr. Gladstone Travelling with Ordinary Passengers, 1885

The English and Their History

by Robert Tombs
At a time when the breakup of the United Kingdom seems ever more likely, any attempt at a history of England, separate from that of Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, is bound to seem a political statement. To dwell on English achievements and English distinctiveness is to supply fodder for …

The Greening Genius of Thomas Browne

Lady Dorothy Browne and Sir Thomas Browne; portrait by Joan Carlisle, circa 1641–1650

Sir Thomas Browne: A Life

by Reid Barbour

In Search of Sir Thomas Browne: The Life and Afterlife of the Seventeenth Century’s Most Inquiring Mind

by Hugh Aldersey-Williams
Thomas Browne (1605–1682) is by common consent the author of some of the finest prose in the English language. Nowhere is it finer than in Hydriotaphia, Urne Buriall, his meditation on funeral customs, death, and immortality. The magical opening of its dedication, “When the funerall pyre was out, and the …

The Great Fight Over the Enlightenment

‘Voltaire in his night shirt, putting on his trousers while dictating to his secretary, at his house in Ferney, France’; painting by Jean Hubert, eighteenth century

The Enlightenment: And Why It Still Matters

by Anthony Pagden

Solomon’s Secret Arts: The Occult in the Age of Enlightenment

by Paul Kléber Monod
What are we to make of the eighteenth- century Enlightenment? For over two hundred years the legacy of its most prominent thinkers, from Locke and Newton to Voltaire, Hume, Diderot, and Kant, has been the subject of bitter debate. Its supporters hail it as the source of everything that is …

The Empires of Elliott

Historians of ‘Past and Present,’ in the National Portrait Gallery, London; painting by Stephen Farthing, 1999. Standing, from left, are Eric Hobsbawm, Rodney Hilton, Lawrence Stone, and Keith Thomas; seated, from left, are Christopher Hill, J.H. Elliott, and Joan Thirsk.

History in the Making

by J.H. Elliott
Moved though they are by intellectual curiosity, historians often feel a personal affinity with the subjects they write about. In Britain, Roman Catholic scholars from David Knowles to Eamon Duffy have been drawn to the history of the medieval church and the monastic orders. Wartime experience with the Coldstream Guards …

The Truth About Oliver Cromwell

Benjamin West: Cromwell Dissolving the Long Parliament, 1782

God’s Instruments: Political Conduct in the England of Oliver Cromwell

by Blair Worden
“In converting the lecture into print I have excised its local references and subdued its oral character.” The fastidious if somewhat mannered elegance of this prefatory remark to Blair Worden’s collection of his essays on the religious and political history of mid-seventeenth-century England reminds one instantly of the late Hugh …

Fighting over History

The sixteenth-century historian Jean Bodin

What Was History?: The Art of History in Early Modern Europe

by Anthony Grafton
Anthony Grafton is one of the world’s most gifted historical scholars. His field is the history of learning, particularly the learning embodied in the philological, historical, and scientific literature of Europe between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries. This is abstruse and difficult territory, partly because so much of it is …

A Highly Paradoxical Historian

Letters from Oxford: Hugh Trevor-Roper to Bernard Berenson

edited by Richard Davenport-Hines

Europe's Physician: The Various Life of Sir Theodore de Mayerne

by Hugh Trevor-Roper
Hugh Trevor-Roper, who died in 2003, was almost certainly the most gifted of the remarkable generation of British historians who did their best work in the decades after World War II. Yet whereas A.J.P. Taylor, J.H. Plumb, Christopher Hill, R.W. Southern, Alan Bullock, Eric Hobsbawm, Lawrence Stone, Asa Briggs, G.R.