Keith Thomas is an Honorary Fellow of All Souls ­College, Oxford. His latest book is In Pursuit of Civility: Manners and Civilization in Early Modern England. (January 2019)


The Power Broker

Hans Holbein: Thomas Cromwell, 1532–1533

Thomas Cromwell: A Revolutionary Life

by Diarmaid MacCulloch
“Thomas Cromwell…Thomas Cromwell? I thought his name was Oliver!” This was the initial reaction of a young Harvard graduate in 1897 to the topic assigned to him for his B. Litt. thesis by Oxford’s Regius Professor of Modern History, Frederick York Powell.1 Over a century later, the relative fame …

A Cavalier Collection

Anthony van Dyck: Charles I and Henrietta Maria Holding a Laurel Wreath, 1632

Charles I: King and Collector

an exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, January 27–April 15, 2018

The White King: Charles I, Traitor, Murderer, Martyr

by Leanda de Lisle
The Royal Academy’s magnificent exhibition “Charles I: King and Collector” revealed a great deal about the collector, but almost nothing about the king. Perhaps this was a deliberate omission, for although Charles I, king of Great Britain and Ireland between 1625 and 1649, built up what became one of the …

Will They Really Leave, and How?

Theresa May
Thirteen weeks after the British referendum on EU membership of June 23, it is still too soon to know what its consequences will be.1 Westminster closed down for the August recess and the new prime minister, Theresa May, took a fortnight’s holiday in Switzerland. Three of Brexit’s most prominent …

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 …