From the Cover:
Not Peace but a Sword provides a case study in religious radicalism and revolutionary politics, as exemplified by
the Puritanism of the English Revolution. Based on sermons preached to the Long Parliament and other political
bodies, Stephen Baskerville demonstrates how Puritan religious and political ideas transformed the English Civil
War into the world’s first great modern revolution. Avoiding the simplicities of the traditional Whig and Marxist
approaches to the English Revolution, but also rejecting the equally one-dimensional “revisionist”
historiography, Baskerville argues for the importance and integrity of ideas (especially religious ideas), but he
also places those ideas within the context of the underlying social changes to which, as the Puritan ministers
themselves testify in their own words, gave rise to Puritan radicalism. The Puritan intellectuals developed the
sermon into medium that conveyed not only a new social and political consciousness but also a sophisticated
political sociology that has been completely ignored by modern scholars. In the process, they challenged the
traditional order and created a new order of their own by appealing to the needs and concerns of a people
caught up in the problems of rapid social and economic change. The book explores the social psychology
behind the rise of Puritanism, as the Puritan ministers themselves presented it, through textual exegesis of their
own words, placing them in the mental context of their time, and offers a new understanding of the link between
religious ideas and revolutionary politics.
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Read the review in the
"I...recommend Not Peace and a Sword to everyone who wishes to obtain an understanding of the historical link between religious ideas and revolutionary politics."
For more information on this book including an interview with the author, click here.
"This is a beautifully written thesis and superbly organized. Moreover it concerns a major segment of English literature of great religious and political importance. Everything in these covers is a pleasure to contemplate... I recommend it for publication without any hesitation whatever."
David Martin, London School of Economics
"...a very impressive exploration of the theology, mentality, and world-view of a powerful group of preachers in the Civil War period.... I know no study which expounds the piety of this group with comparable power and detail. ... Mr Baskerville's work will be well received by all students of Puritanism, the Civil Wars, and English History."
J.G.A. Pocock, Johns Hopkins University
The Story Behind this Book
This is not a textbook, but it provides a textbook example of how the academic establishment blackballs ideas and works it finds threatening, even when they are irrefutable and amply documented. This book was my 1987 doctoral thesis at the London School of Economics. Shortly before the thesis was submitted, I learned that it would almost certainly be failed because of the hostility of Professor Conrad Russell, who at the time was the leader of the reigning "revisionist" school and who held a stranglehold over all theses on the English Civil War at the University of London. (To understand the significance of this, it is extremely rare for a doctoral thesis to be failed, even when its ostensible "contribution to knowledge" is manifestly feeble. Theses are often "referred" for revisions requested by examiners, but almost never failed, unless someone has a vendetta or wants to suppress something for political reasons. Likewise, academics are never dismissed for incompetence, no matter how obvious; they are terminated because someone powerful does not like their politics.) The defense was therefore held at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington. The external examiner was Professor J.G.A. Pocock, the distinguished historian of political thought, so it is impossible to suggest that it was approved without valid credentials and high standards. Pocock and David Martin, the eminent sociologist of religion, both recommended it for publication without qualification (quotes above). Despite these endorsements from two of the most illustrious figures in the history of political thought and the sociology of religion, the book remained unpublished for over 30 years. In 1993, Routledge printed the first half, by arrangement with the LSE, but at a price so high that even libraries could not buy it, and so the book remained inaccessible until the rights lapsed. In effect, Routledge did the opposite of publishing the book, which means "to make public." They may as well have locked it in a drawer.
This is a book about ideas that are ignored by the great scholars, and it does not fit into the standard academic pigeonholes of those who want to manipulate and distort history to serve their own political agendas. If you want to avoid the suffocating pedantry that characterizes almost all academic writing in the humanities and social sciences today, including on topics like the history and sociology of religion, the English Revolution, Puritanism, religious radicalism, and revolutionary ideology, and read something quite different in the history of ideas, you will find that this book opens your eyes.
In the 30+ years since this book was written, I have changed my views fundamentally on many topics (including both politics and religion), but I have not changed a word of this book; nor do I see any reason to do so, because this is not a polemic nor a proxy work for a political agenda. Unlike the pontifications of the scholars, it will not lose whatever value it has, because it is based not on my views, nor those of scholars, but on the words of the Puritans themselves.
Not Peace But a Sword:
The Political Theology of the English Revolution
(Restored Full Edition, 2018)