An informal review of Rachel Foxley’s The Levellers: Radical political thought in the English Revolution

A second post! I can’t promise a lot of further updates here, but I have been more in the mood for this sort of thing of late. We had our second child about a year ago, and between work and home, there hasn’t been a lot of time left over for writing things on a blog that no one reads and does not contribute to either raising children or promotion at work. However, I am in the midst of a few different projects, one of which is to revamp part of the old dissertation for an article. I am currently thinking about doing a reappraisal of The Moderate because it has been quite a long time, as far as I can tell (someone could let me know if I am wrong)  that there has been a scholarly reexamination of that infamous newsbook. I’ve got a lot on my plate right now, so I expect progress to be slow, but in an effort to get some of my thoughts together, I thought that I would write a review of Rachel Foxley’s recent monograph The Levellers: Radical political thought in the English Revolution as I catch up on Leveller historiography.

Foxley’s book is an outgrowth of her dissertation. It is the larger work behind her chapter in Vernon and Baker’s The Agreements of the People, the Levellers and the Constitutional Crisis of the English Revolution (2012) and her article “Problems of Sovereignty in Leveller Writings” (2007). I will begin with brief summaries of each of the chapters. Because this is more to help me sort some things out, this will not be as formal a review as I might otherwise try to write. In case you are wondering why I don’t just write something up for myself and not publish it here: 1. This site doesn’t get enough traffic to be considered public and 2. Writing where someone might see what I am writing forces me to focus much more than when I write solely for my self.

The first two chapters are paired. In the first chapter, “Consent and the Origins of Government,” Foxley situates the Levellers in and against parliamentarian rhetoric about popular sovereignty and parliamentary supremacy. The Levellers were not just a further extension or radicalization of parliamentarian propaganda. She points out that the Leveller came to draw on two fundamentally opposed principles: the supremacy of the Commons and the appeal to the people. These two ideas came from different sources within the parliamentarian coalition, the former the more “radical,” the latter more conservative.

One of the key arguments is that the Levellers were not arguing for a social contract, despite what many historians have said. They viewed contemporary England as still being in a state of nature and that “the transition to benign consensual government was not a decisive break, but simply a development of the right and natural state of things” (28). Therefore, the Levellers could not and would not argue that it was time to create a new social contract with the Agreement; that would indicate that representative government was not part of the state of nature.

The Levellers drew on Henry Parker and others to argue against England’s mixed constitution and in favor of the supremacy of the Commons. The Commons could be supreme because MPs were elected. This led the Levellers, as they grew disillusioned with the Commons, to argue that without proper and frequent elections, the representative could fail to be truly representative.

The second chapter, “The Appeal to the People,” argues that the Levellers’ later tendency to appeal to the people was difficult to reconcile with their belief in the Commons’ supremacy. When they did begin to do so, ideas came not from the more radical polemicists like Parker, but from Presbyterians. These more conservative writers worked hard to avoid implications of parliamentary supremacy in an their effort to preserve the mixed constitution. In so doing, they inadvertently left room for the people to be involved. For instance, Philip Hunton could not allow one part of the government to be superior to the others, so he allowed people to use their consciences to choose which side of the civil war to support.

All of this leads to a reinterpretation of the third Agreement. Instead of reading it as a full statement of all the things the Levellers always wanted but were too afraid to say, she sees it as a result of the “changed circumstances” that the Levellers and England now found themselves in. The Commonwealth was too tyrannical. Interestingly, Foxley also ties the decentralization of offices in the third Agreement to these changed circumstances. It was an attempt to create a “halfway house between the sovereignty of the people and that of their representatives in Parliament” (71).

The third chapter, “The laws of England and the ‘free-born Englishman’” discusses how Lilburne could use natural law, Coke’s common law arguments, and statute law to support his ideology. This was done through a radical reinterpretation of Coke’s language. Much of the chapter is around Lilburne’s language, particularly the terms “free-born Englishman” and “birth-right.” Both terms were inclusive rather than exclusive. Following some of the work done on the Levellers and their involvement in London politics, she argues that although the concept of citizenship, for which “free-born Englishman” is an alternate term, did come from London politics, but its inclusiveness was intended to override the exclusive term citizen.

The term “birth-right” was what the “free-born Englishman” had. It was a term that roped together a variety of rights, privileges, and immunities that, while some of these might previously have been the exclusive domain of particular groups, now became the domain of the free-born.

These rights and terms came with duties. That was part of the active citizenship required of an Englishman. He was expected to defend his birth-right. Lilburne would use “English” as “a moral shorthand” (108).

The fourth chapter, “Religion, politics, and conscience,” explores the Leveller commitment to liberty of conscience. Foxley argues that Lilburne’s and frequently the Levellers’ political and religious agendas were parallel; one did not come from the other. Indeed, she goes so far as to say that arguments about covenant theology and congregations for motivating or shaping the Levellers are unnecessary; “parliamentarian thinking, whether tolerationist or not, is a viable source for all the structural elements of Leveller political thought” (121). The Levellers just kind of thought about politics and religion in the same way. There were rights and duties for the free-born Englishman and the good Christian.

Foxley argues that the liberty of conscience, to the Levellers, was positive, in that your conscience was your own, and that “the Levellers thus emphasized the importance of everyone, from the lowest to the highest, taking responsibility for their own views” (130). This also meant that the use of your own conscience was necessary in both religion and politics.

People thus needed to be able to understand themselves. “These types of self-understanding could line up neatly with the self-understanding which Lilburne required of his audience of free-born Englishmen. For the Levellers, they should also enable people to be aware of duties towards God and one’s fellow citizens, and of the rights which sometimes had to be asserted in order to fulfill those duties” (131-32). Thus, Leveller view on politics and religion were not dependent one way or the other, but parallel.

Foxley also argues that the Levellers were not proposing a separation of church and state. That would oversimplify their position. Rather, in looking at Overton and Walwyn in particular, she finds that Levellers tended to blur the distinctions between reason, nature, and the divine. She also notes that the Levellers were okay with the creation of a national church so long as it had not power of compulsion or restriction (Ireton, at the Whitehall Debates, also opposed compulsion, but he was okay with restriction).

Foxley goes on to argue that the Levellers placed the reserve on religion in the Agreements because it was not within a person’s power to go against his own religion. Therefore, that power could not be granted to a magistrate. However, as Foxley argued, the conscience was owned by the person, not by God, and thus theoretically controlled it. Foxley goes on to note that “this paradoxical ‘reservation’ by the people of a power which they did not in fact possess” was part of Leveller philosophy.  “In religion, we are forced to own our consciences and not give them away; in politics, we are forced to own our basic physical security and political freedom and not give it away” (139). Thus, as with the “free-born Englishman,” rights are also duties.

One of the most interesting observations in this chapter, to be revisited in the next, was the overlap in style and wording between the Remonstrance of Many Thousand Citizens (1646), printed by Overton, and the reserve concerning religion in the first Agreement (1647). This argument was made previously in Walwyn’s A Helpe to Right Understanding (1645). “A consistent Leveller argument, perhaps linked by Walwyn’s involvement, runs throughout these three texts” (137).

The most important chapter for my interests is the fifth: “Levellers and the army: England’s freedom, soldiers’ rights.” Foxley modifies current historiography in some ways. She frequently comes into conflict with the interpretations of John Morrill, Philip Baker, and Elliott Vernon, though often agreeing on core concepts. There is still a fracturing “Independent alliance,” coined by David Underdown and modified and developed by Jason Peacey, Morrill, Baker, and Vernon. This alliance housed a variety of radicals and this tends to complicate the history of the creation of the Case of the Armie and the first Agreement. Morrill and Baker have argued that there was little overlap between the civilian Levellers and the soldier authors of the Case. Similarly, Vernon and Baker find the genesis of the Agreement to be more mixed, but still more squarely responding to parliamentarian discourse and the army’s own declarations. However, Foxley argues for greater involvement by Levellers, or at least their ideas, in both documents: “none of the attempts in the literature to slice a clean line between one set of texts and people and another (whether those are ‘Leveller’, ‘Independent’ or ‘army’) is entirely convincing. Both at the level of written ideas and at the level of personnel, the threads which connect these three groups are too tangled to undo” (153).

After questioning what we can really know about the personal connections between civilian and army radicals, she argues that Lilburne’s concepts of the “free-born Englishman” and his “birth-right” did deeply inform the first Agreement. She takes on Kishlansky directly: “the Agreement itself . . .was a distillation of fundamental principles designed to render civilian and army demands compatible. It may have had army origins, but it was taken up and promoted in an energetic campaign by the civilian radicals who were now named Levellers; and their further ‘Agreements of the People’ were similarly designed to appeal to army support. The Putney Debates and the promotion of the Agreement marked not the end but the beginning of a potentially fertile alliance between civilian Levellers and army radicals” (158).  Rather than viewing the Leveller infiltration of the army in 1647 as small and the mutiny at Ware as weak, she asks “if the Levellers and the army did approach Putney ‘from opposite directions’, as Kishlansky claims, why did they keep converging for so long afterwards” (158)? She notes the repeated actions with and against the Levellers in the army, ending with the May and September 1649 mutinies that posed a serious threat. “The revisionist story about Putney and its aftermath cannot easily account for these continuing connections” (159).

Most relevant to my interests, she has about five pages on The Moderate. She finds that it evinces a kind of army radicalism. It was one conversant with the Levellers, but still different. For instance, The Moderate rejected all the laws of the land as part of the Norman yoke, but we know that Lilburne had incorporated the law into his vision. The Moderate and the Levellers both complained about the new Council of State, but while The Moderate complained about the inclusion of Lords and anti-regicides, Lilburne opposed army commanders, Star Chamber judges, and those that rejected the dissolution of the monarchy and the Lords. “The Moderate’s army-oriented radicalism overlapped with Leveller concerns about the direction of the revolution, even though any Leveller endorsement of the regicide was far more wary and conditional” (164).

Foxley also notes that the Moderate was careful not to challenge the army’s leadership. It did not condone the Leveller uprisings and unrest in 1649, though it did report approvingly on the Levellers. “and while it cautiously omitted to print the Agreement of the People, it dropped heavy hints of its continued support for ‘Leveller’ doctrines in the wake of the mutiny’s defeat . . . . On the evidence of the Moderate, support for the Leveller programme in the army did not wither away in the aftermath of Burford, and some might still be significant supporters who had not thrown themselves into mutiny” (164).

Foxley ends her discussion of the Moderate by discussing its efforts to conciliate radicals, Independent and otherwise. She argues that the paper shows the continued support of Levellerism by army radicals, even after the mutinies, and even though some may not “endorse Leveller violence” (165).

Before finishing the chapter with a comparison between Leveller and army demands for England’s constitution, she discusses the origins of army radicalization. Effectively, she argues that over 1647, the soldiers were encouraged, or perhaps forced, to think of themselves as soldiers and as Englishmen. These dual identities sometimes came into conflict, but by following this line, Foxley argues that even the Case was not strictly army-oriented because it demanded that the soldiers be considered as citizens.

The Levellers tried to push the soldiers to think of themselves as Englishmen, with the attendant rights and duties. As a result, “from 1647 the army stressed their rights as Englishmen in ways which strongly recalled, and were certainly compatible with, Lilburne’s discourse of the citizenship of free-born Englishmen. This gave the army a position from which to intervene politically; and it gave the Levellers a platform for grafting their thought onto army radicalism and trying to steer army radicals towards their own political programmes” (175).

The last chapter, “Levellers into republicans?,” discusses both the mixing and incompatibility of Leveller and classical republican thought. This review has already gone on a bit long, so to summarize this chapter very quickly, most republicans in the 1650s were unwilling to invoke the Levellers for fear of accusations of democracy, except for John Streater. The chapter primarily discusses Lilburne, Marchamont Nedham, John Harrington, and Streater.

This book takes on the revisionist view of the Levellers at a number of points. In general, it argues for their greater importance and power. It does so by emphasizing the strength and appeal of their ideas, even where there may not be much overlap in personnel between Levellers and other radicals. For instance, while Lilburne did not invent the words “free-born Englishman” and “birth-right” (certainly terms strongly identified with Lilburne) he did popularize them and give them their meanings. By following these concepts, Foxley points out to the extensive Leveller influence on other people and texts.

The book also disagrees with literature that tries to either make the Levellers secular or religious. For instance, Colin Mason has recently argued that the Levellers’ belief in religious toleration came from the General (not Particular) Baptists. Foxley also denies that the Agreement was based on congregational oaths or covenant theology, as some have. For Foxley, such arguments are unnecessary because “parliamentarian thinking, whether tolerationist or not, is a viable source for all the structural elements of Leveller political thought” (121). As mentioned previously, the Levellers thought about politics and religion in parallel; one did not depend on the other.

There are a few underlying assumptions about the Levellers and the period. First, it was a mess. The Independent alliance was messy, the sharing of ideas and people was messy, and the histories of the parliament, army, and radicals were messy. It is therefore impossible to entirely separate all of these apart. It is reminiscent of J. C. Davis’s line about historians who viewed the Levellers as democrats as being “too insistent on consistency.”

Second, there was a belief in continuity. Although Foxley disagrees with R. B. Seaberg on a few important points, continuity is central to her discussions. Seaberg argues that the Levellers as a whole, not just Lilburne, embraced the common law and Magna Carta while rejecting Norman practices. Foxley objects to these arguments, but both agree that Levellers felt that they were a part of an eternal battle between people’s liberty and those who would take away that liberty. Thus, for Foxley, the Agreements were an attempt end the cycle of fighting over English rights.

Beyond that, there is Foxley’s argument that the Levellers believed that rule by a representative was continuous with the state of nature. There was no moment where English society broke away from prepolitical society; government by representation was part of the state of nature.

Foxley also has a radical reading of the Agreement. It was not intended as a social contract or an agreement between the people, but an agreement between the army and the people. The Agreement “was an audacious proposal for a treaty not between king and Parliament—the parties which had fought the civil war—but between army and people. And yet it did not presuppose the maintenance of the army for the future; rather, it was designed to bring the army’s and people’s interests into a close enough alignment that both soldiers and ex-soldiers would be secured from political malice, alongside their fellow commoners” (171). The Agreement, then, in addition to attempting to appeal to both civilians and soldiers, was an attempt to unite the soldiers’ two identities of soldier and Englishman.

Foxley challenges much of the inherited wisdom on the Levellers. She challenges earlier historians who saw them as largely secular, more recent historians who see them as chiefly religious, and revisionists who have doubted their strength. However, in some cases, such as in dealing with the revisionists, Foxley has modified arguments more than refuted them (except in arguing that the Levellers were strong enough to be taken seriously). She has typically done so by emphasizing messiness and continuity.

One of the things I appreciate most about this book is its attention to language. The discussions of the meanings of free-born and birth-right give the terms and ideas behind them their due. These discussions and their consequences for thinking about the Levellers are some of the most powerful in the book.

In discussing the continuity between the present and ancient past, the Levellers are allowed to speak for themselves more than having their ideas imposed on other schemas. It is a salient reminder that we all take our preconceptions with us, even those of us who should know better. Although this book did not propose to tie all Leveller developments the larger political contexts, it was sensitive to changes in the political situation and good at tracing how these forced the Levellers into some contorted positions. The central example of this, to which the book returns repeatedly, is the uncomfortable embrace of parliamentary sovereignty and the decision to begin appealing to the people. Leveller philosophy required the Commons to be synonymous with the people, making an appeal to the people disingenuous at best. However, this then shaped their view of representation and elections, ultimately explaining why so much attention was paid to it in the third Agreement. I have always been uncomfortable with the arguments made about Leveller belief in decentralization and that this belief was incompatible with the soldiers’ demands, thus making the soldiers turn away from the Levellers. If Leveller influence was weakened by their trend toward decentralization, why did Cromwell continue to fear them? Why did Lilburne have to be exiled and then imprisoned? How could there be mutinies into September 1649? Could soldiers have been so willing to betray their longterm interests as Englishmen for their short term interests of not-being-entirely-certain-how-they-were-going-to-be-paid? They did famously protest that they were not “a meer mercinary army.”

Overall, this book is a strong contribution to the historiography of the Levellers. For my part, I largely agreed with the interpretation of The Moderate as being more representative of army radicalism than Levellerism (that was a big part of my dissertation, after all). It might be beyond the scope of the book, but I would have liked to have seen more about the Levellers’ many other demands. For instance, there has been a lot written about the Levellers and monopolies and a large variety of particular reforms (legal reform, poor law reform, prison reform, freedom of the press, and others) and many of these were not addressed and do not appear to easily fall into the discussions of sovereignty. I can see how freedom of the press would be important, and I think I remember a brief discussion of monopolies, but are these other reforms simply tacked on, or are they also part of an organic development within the Leveller movement? Perhaps that is a whole other book. In any case, I would certainly recommend this book as a major work in the field.


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More on iPad for academics

Recently, a lightning strike traveled over the phone lines and fried our modem and everything wired to it, including a TimeCapsule, a printer, and a bluray player. To say the least, it was vexing. I have since rescued the hard drive out of the time capsule, replaced the printer, figured out a new media option instead of the bluray player, and purchased a new router. Our ISP took care of the new modem and repairing the line into the house.

In the process, I took advantage of some recent changes in home internet technology to try to make my iPad more functional. I thought that it might be useful to share some of these developments here. If you are up-to-date on internet security, this will probably be boring for you. I intend this for the well intentioned amateur, like myself, who is not afraid of handling more sophisticated technologies but might need some help with terms and basic instructions.

I have recommended SugarSync to many people in the past. It is a cloud service that runs an automatic sync with files on your home computer that you designate. It has proven useful for me. For instance, when I use my iPad to grade student work (usually in pdf files), I do so using PDFExpert on my iPad and sync it with my SugarSync account, and everything ends of neatly back on my computer. It has been great, but for over a year, there has been one irritating problem. When Apple changed the file format for iWork (Pages, Numbers, Keynote) files, SugarSync stopped being able to read them correctly. It became impossible to look at these files on my iPad as a result. I have tried some workarounds, but ultimately I have simply had to remember to move all of my iWork files that I think that I will need into iCloud. Sometimes I forget, and then I am in trouble. SugarSync has refused to update their software to better understand iWork files, instead blaming Apple, and I have lost my patience with SugarSync. I will not be renewing my subscription when it is up.

My new router allows me new options. Routers that can create VPNs (Virtual Private Network) have typically been priced out of the range of the home user, but more and more companies are making more budget-friendly options. So I purchased a TP-Link VPN router. Between that and eventually buying an NAS drive, I figure that I will save a hundred dollars at least on buying a new TimeCapsule and have way more functionality. Take that, Apple!

Why would I need to set up a VPN? Well, I often like to be able to access my home computer while on campus or away from home. It allows me to access files I might need and to even use my iPad as a remote desktop, so that I can directly use my computer, even though it is still on my desk miles away. For that I use a program called iTeleport. I can get back to that later.

The trouble with this is that previously I have had to poke holes in the firewall that protects my home network. The firewall is the barrier that keeps other people on the internet from accessing your computer. There is probably one in your router and also on your computer. The VPN allows me to keep the firewall in place and access my home network, gaining all the access to my computer as I would if I was right there at home.

Setting up the VPN was stunningly easy. It will vary based on the router you choose, so I cannot give detailed instruction. Figure out how to access your router’s interface; there should be instructions with your router, perhaps printed directly on your router. Here are some key terms and things to do. You will probably want to set up an LT2P tunnel with IPSec encryption. This is easy to set up and fairly secure. I think  that the NSA can break it, but if they are interested in you, you probably have more pressing problems. A PPTP tunnel is also very easy to set up, but much less secure; go for the LT2P. It is a called a “tunnel” because it tunnels through your firewall, and then as far as your iPad is considered it will be as if you were sitting at home; you can access a network drive, your computer, your printer, the whole deal. You will need to set up a username and password, which shouldn’t be difficult. You will need to enable IPSec encryption on your router. You will also need to set up a shared key or “secret,” which will then serve as an encryption key. You will also need to set up an IP address pool. I don’t know why they make you do that, but you will have to. Where it tells you to do that, make up a name for the pool and assign IP addresses different from the ones that the router itself will assign, so if it assigns address in the range of and up, set the range of the VPN’s address pool to and up. Or make up a totally new number. It is your call.

A quick word on IP addresses, in case you were unaware. This is your computer’s internet address. Your ISP assigns you an IP address. Your router then accepts it, and then it assigns each device connected to it a new IP address that looks completely different from the one the ISP gave it. Your router does that so it can talk to each computer on the network. It then communicates with your ISP and sends you that cookie recipe you were looking for.

Another word on IP addresses. In order to finish setting up your VPN, you will need a way to keep track of your ISP-assigned IP address. There are a variety of services that will do this for you. I use Go there, set up an account, and you will also set up a web address that looks a lot like a URL. Hold on to that URL for a moment. If you are lucky, your router has a place for you to enter that information and it will help you to keep track of your IP address.

You will then need to set up your iPad. The good news is that it is built into iOS. Go to settings, General, VPN. Then enter your username, password, “secret,” and that URL you got from or whoever. And you are all set.

There is one more thing to do on your router. Assign your computer a set IP. You can probably find a place to do this under “router” or some similar heading in your router’s interface. There will be a place for you to enter your MAC address and assign a particular IP address to your computer. Just pick one. Hold onto that address for a moment. Your MAC address is a code embedded in your wireless card, or ethernet card, or any piece of internet hardware. Whatever computer or operating system you have, just google how to find your MAC address; it shouldn’t be too hard.

So you have a VPN. What now? You will want to get a few new apps for your iPad. I would recommend iNet, iTeleport, and FileBrowser. There are many others, but I use these so I know that they work. Follow the setup instructions for iTeleport. You will have to activate screen sharing and set up a VNC; you can do this in your system preferences under Sharing, if you are on a mac. Make sure you use a strong password for it. I would however recommend not bothering with the app they want you to set up on your computer. Go into manual setup on the app on your iPad, enter that IP address that you assigned your home computer in the paragraph before this. Because you will never need to access your computer from outside your home network, there will be no need to set up the app that helps you to locate your home network. Then add in your various usernames and passwords, and you are good to go.

To use FileBrowser, you will need to enable file sharing on your computer. On a Mac, look for “Windows sharing.” It is in your System Preferences under Sharing. In FileBrowser, manually create a new location by putting in that IP address for your computer and the proper username and password (probably the same ones you use to log into your computer), and you are done. I like FileBrowser because it has been updated to work with iWork documents. Take that SugarSync.

So now you can use your iPad as a remote desktop and access all of your files. The only major problem is that, if your computer is asleep, you need to be able to wake it up. That is what iNet is for, or iWol, or whatever similar app you get. WoL stands for “wake on lan.” Basically, you can have your router wake your computer up for you. For this to work reliably, you probably need to run an ethernet cable from the router to your computer; wireless connections can work, but they are far less reliable. You will need to enable Remote Login in your System Preferences. In iNet, you will need to set up the wake-on-lan service using your computer’s IP address, your login for your computer, and your MAC address. Once that is done, you can wake up your computer, put it to sleep, shut it down, and reboot it. You just can’t turn it on if it is completely shut off.

So next time your in the office or at a coffeeshop, just hit the VPN switch on your iPad, and enjoy all that secure and reliable access to your home computer. My next major purchase will be to set up an NAS drive; this is a hard drive that can be used by anyone on your home network. But I’ll talk more about that once I get it set up.

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Partial review of Mike Wallace, Mickey Mouse History and Other Essays on American Memory

I did not realize how long it had been since my last post. I have been keeping busy, and I do have a thing or two to report, but I do not have time to write it up just now. Instead, I will include a partial preçis/review that I wrote for myself on

Wallace, Mike. Mickey Mouse History and Other Essays on American Memory.  Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1996.

The book is a collection of essays divided into four sections. I read “Visiting the Past: History Museums in the United States” (3-32), “Razor Ribbons, History Museums, and Civic Salvation” (33-54), “Boat People: Immigrant History at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island” (55-74), “Progress Talk: Museums of Science, Technology, and Industry” (75-86), “Industrial Museums and the History of Deindustrialization” (87-100), “The Virtual Past: Media and History Museums” (101-114), “Mickey Mouse History: Portraying the Past at Disney World” (133-58), “Disney’s America” (159-74), and “Preserving the Past: A History of Historic Preservation in the United States” (177-222).

My general impressions about Wallace were that he was very committed to public history and engaging with the public. He has a somewhat Marxist bent to his idea of historical progression, with lots of class struggle. However, he is not overly materialist; there is a great deal of social analysis, too.

One of his main concerns is that museums and displays not present the particular view of the dominant class. This is a topic that came up in “Visiting the Past,” “Boat People,” “Progress Talk,” and, well, maybe all of them. In the first chapter, he discusses Colonial Williamsburg, Greenfield Village, and other major attempts at historical preservation or recreation by industrialists. He argues that up through the late 19th century Americans preferred the narrative that they were not bound by history, with the coming troubles of the early 20th century, men like Ford and Rockefeller jr. decided that they wanted to promote a particular vision of the past. This past lacked the nascent conflict of the present. For instance, in Williamsburg, painstaking care was taken to replicate the 18th-century town, but it was peopled with mostly middle-class white people. Where were the slaves? The poor? The rich? It represented only the “best” parts of the time, and the parts that the industrialists believed themselves the heirs.

There is a similar story in discussion of immigration and technology. The museum at Ellis Island is good, he says, because it does look at anecdotes and statistics to show not the heroic side of immigration, but the pain, noting all the people who were turned away. It also tried to show the global element. However, he wishes that more effort was made to discuss immigration more widely, with the concerns in the home countries that motivated it, the mistreatment faced in the US, and the non-white immigrants who did not come through Ellis Island. This was done to a certain extent, but he wants more. He wants to make sure that it isn’t just the “America is a land of hard-working and accepted immigrants” myth. For technology and industrialization, he wants to show the pain associated with these things. He believes that focusing just on the technology gives too much credence to “progress” and ignores the real pains and struggles that came with industrialization, and the larger social changes it wrought. Same with deindustrialization.

Generally speaking, he wants more context. People should come away a sense of larger consequences and causes of historical change. It cannot be bundled up into a tidy narrative.

This is the major problem with Disney’s version of history. It wants to make people feel good, and as such it has to avoid contested points and controversy. That was an underlying problem with the Hall of Presidents and the proposed America theme park, among other things. He is not opposed to history being entertaining, but there are severe problems with relying on a company that specializes it entertaining and creating miniature, idealized versions of the past to accurately convey the complexities and darker parts of our own past. They want it to end on a positive note, marching toward a better future, and that is an agenda that cannot be matched with intellectual honesty.

The history of preservation has been a history of the elite. They leave a lot more artifacts behind and they are the ones who have spearheaded most historical preservationist moves. Businesses got on board in the 70s as a way of getting tax breaks and making money when the recession destroyed real estate prices, but with deregulation and the improving economy of the 80s, the alliance between preservationists and capitalists broke. Wallace’s line here seems to be that preservationism is ideologically opposed to market-driven capitalism, and needs to work on building a philosophy in opposition to mainstream capitalism rather than submitting to it or working with it.

The sections on technology or dated. I don’t know how many people think that VR helmets are the way of the future, but it seems less likely now than it did in the mid-90s. There are a lot of references to books and collections on CD-ROM. Wallace certainly cannot be blamed for underestimating the still developing internet of the mid-90s, but I would like to hear what he has to say about the integration of technology and exhibits now. He believed that online exhibits would not lead to lower turnouts in museums and that it was a good means of reaching out further into the larger community.

So, when putting together a museum you should: avoid particular, dominant narratives; remember context; think bigger than the particular focus of the museum; and embrace technology.

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Philip Baker and Elliott Vernon, eds., The Agreements of the People, the Levellers and the Constitutional Crisis of the English Revolution (review)

Baker, Philip and Elliott Vernon. The Agreements of the People, the Levellers and the Constitutional Crisis of the English Revolution. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2012.

Sorry for the delay. I finished reading the book a little while ago, but had other work to do. I also read (most of) another book, and I will probably post some thoughts on that when I get the chance.

Let me start by saying that I thoroughly enjoyed this book. However, if you are planning on getting started with the Levellers, you should not start here. This book does not provide an overview or context for a lot of what was happening in the 1640s. That is not a criticism; that was not the point of the book. But this book is a big step toward establishing some new orthodoxies about the Leveller movement and the army’s radicalism during the Civil Wars.

A lot of the chapters in this book drew on some ideas put forward by Vernon and Baker in their article “What was the first Agreement of the People?” I believe I discussed it in an earlier post. They argue that first Agreement was not a Leveller document. It was written by soldiers and agitators, led by Wildman, who had little to no direct contact with the civilians who would become the leaders of the Leveller movement. The Agreement itself was a product of the radicalism of some of the army’s own members and a response to what these members thought was an overly generous peace proposal in the Heads of the Proposals. Not all of the contributors to the book entirely go along with this redefinition. In particular, Rachel Foxley, who recently published a book on the Levellers, is not willing to take the Levellers out of the Agreement, citing enough similar phrasings and patterns of thought with earlier pamphlets by later Levellers to show consistency, even if Vernon and Baker are correct about the genesis of the document. For my part, I think that Vernon and Baker’s reading of the origins of the first Agreement make a lot of sense. It never made sense to me that Cromwell and the other senior officers would have been willing to give a serious hearing to the Agreement those fateful days in October and November 1647 if it had not been a product of the army. We simply have to take at face value that it was written by representatives from five regiments and not part of a Leveller plot. More on this point later, but suffice it to say that many of the contributors, particularly in the earlier chapters, support this reading of the first Agreement. This will be the new orthodoxy.

Baker and Vernon also establish a new chronology for the Agreements. Traditionally, historians discussed the first Agreement (Nov. 1647), the second Agreement (the account that Lilburne published in Dec. 1648 purporting to be the version agreed upon by the committee of sixteen), the officers’ Agreement (Jan. 20, 1648), and the third Agreement (May 1649). There was also an Agreement by John Jubbes (Dec. 1648) which was generally ignored or marginalized because Jubbes was not a Leveller. Baker, Vernon, and many of the contributors to the volume rename and reorganize this timeline. After the first Agreement, there is a series of compromises worked out between Wildman and a committee to reconcile the Agreement and the Heads on Nov. 2. Throughout 1648, Levellers and army supporters continued to develop the Agreement to include many of the social and legal reforms promoted by the Levellers, and the various published versions are collectively referred to as New Engagements. The second Agreement is now Foundations of Freedom, because it can no longer be second if the first was not a Leveller document and there were New Engagements in between. Jubbes’s Agreement is reconsidered as an authentic Agreement because if the first Agreement was not a Leveller document, then the fact that Jubbes was not a Leveller should not discount his Agreement. The officers’ Agreement is still referred to as such by most of the contributors, but it was also called the January 1649 Agreement. Finally, the third Agreement is redubbed the May 1649 Agreement, because it can no longer be third. The names reflect the new understanding of the Agreements as an ongoing series of attempts by different parties to resolve England’s constitutional crisis of the 1640s. While the Levellers were heavily involved, they cannot be given pride of place when so many others contributed. The result is messier, but more accurately reflects the complexities of the history. The crux of the Agreement is not Leveller infiltration of the army but the quest to settle England.  As Baker and Vernon write at the end of their introduction (which was a superb survey of Leveller historiography, “the Agreements of the People were documents that represented a particularly early modern attempt to remodel the constitution in a time of political crisis” (20-21).

In the interests of space and time, I will try to limit myself to a few thoughts on each individual chapter.

Ch. 1: Edward Vallance, “Oaths, Covenants, Associations and the Origins of the Agreements of the People: The Road to and from Putney”

This chapter argued that the Agreements adapted the use of loyalty oaths that proliferated in the 1640s and 50s, particularly the Covenant, from their earlier medieval, communal roots into “natural rights-based individualism” in a “quintessentially ‘early modern’ transitional phase” (30). Time is given to looking at Collinson’s take on the 1584 bond of association and earlier precedents of oaths of association. The Levellers came to emphasize the contractual language and invitation to mass political involvement, making the oaths a kind of social contract. Vallance notes the importance placed upon engagements and covenants by the Levellers and the soldiers, pointing out that the debate that preceded the famous debate over the franchise was an extended debate over the keeping of those oaths. Therefore, the radicalism of the Levellers does not rest in the franchise or any particular part of their platform (though there were radical elements), but in taking “the sectional democracy of the medieval commune and transform[ing] it radically, into a national written constitution, guaranteeing fundamental, natural, human rights” (43).

One thing that Vallance notes, which I have not seen elsewhere, but I am quite behind on my Leveller historiography, is that Rainsborough’s famous “greatest hee” speech was borrowed from Lilburne’s The Charters of London (1644).

I think that many historians are reimagining the Levellers as radicals who happened to get along for a while. Historians long struggled over what to call the grouping. Is it a party? Is it a movement? This view of the Agreement and the Levellers emphasizes the view of the Levellers as part of the fracturing Independent alliance (also not a new interpretation, but increasingly in vogue). These were men who read parliamentary declarations in a particular way, and thus drew on the same material as Independents and even Presbyterians, but drew wildly different conclusions. In this case, it is a matter of how they interpreted oaths. Is there any greater symbol for variant interpretation than the Solemn League and Covenant? Both Presbyterians and Independents found ways to bash each other with it.

Ch. 2: Jason Peacey, “The People of the Agreements: The Levellers, Civil War Radicalism and Political Participation”

At heart, this chapter was about the people: who they were and what they were required to do, according to the Agreements. Peacey compares the various documents and finds that while all of them required a mechanism for popular approval, the Levellers were radical in that they imagined that the people bound themselves to maintain the Agreement in an active way. There would be frequent elections, impeachments, free press, and regular political reporting to keep MPs accountable.

I am always a fan of Peacey’s work. However, I struggled with this one a little. I think that the analysis and argument were strong and I am always amazed at his grasp of the historiography (seriously, I sometimes wonder if I have read as many books in my entire life as he cites in a single article), but got bogged down in the language from time to time. This sentence got me: “the texts of the various Agreements thus contained a range of different ideas and they performed different functions for different groups, and within individual schemes they could be understood to have had multiple uses” (66). Still, if this is what I can expect to find out of his new book (which I have not been able to read yet because no school in the University System of Georgia seems to have it), I am on board.

Ch. 3: Alan Orr, “Constitutionalism: Ancient, Modern and Early Modern in the Agreements of the People

Orr argues that the Levellers were not trying to create anything new. Rather, the focus of the Agreements and the Levellers was about the restoration of the English birthright, no matter how mythical. The goal was to return to a time before the Norman Conquest and restore the English birthright to its proper state of freedom. This included creating a unicameral parliament and abolishing the power of the Lords.

The article is well argued and clearly written. Considering how much time the Levellers and others spent considering birthright, not to mention the extended debate at Putney, it is surprising that there has not been more discussion of what exactly the birthright meant.

Ch. 4: Philip Baker, “The Levellers, Decentralization and the Agreements of the People

Baker argues that the Leveller platforms and the Agreements were shaped the Levellers experiences, good and bad, with local government, particularly London’s. The Levellers and the Agreements developed over time was “a reaction against longer-term changes in civic governance as in more recent national developments” (98). The Levellers particularly wanted to decentralize the English government. The emphasis on decentralization in the Leveller tracts is well known, but the examination of their knowledge of city governments is revealing.

The Leveller demand for decentralization was at least in part sparked by perceptions of parliamentary tyranny. It was their experiences in being part of the “unacknowledged republic” of England (there are a few points in this chapter in which the reader is reminded of John Morrill; this is one of them) and the self-governing city of London that led them to believe such decentralization desirable. Baker shows that William Walwyn and Thomas Prince both occupied positions in London, and that Prince and Wildman worked for other city governments, too. In addition, Baker shows that their experiences with groups in London (Lilburne’s fight with the Stationers’ Company and Merchant Adventurers, Prince being denied a voice in an election, Walwyn’s plan to raise a citizen army to guard the Tower) all are represented in some way in the Agreements. These experiences and fears of losing local autonomy as the English government continued to centralize encouraged the Levellers to push for decentralization.

In the late 1970s, Morrill argued that Leveller and army aims were incompatible, something that the soldiers eventually realized, because the Leveller emphasis on decentralization would have made it impossible for the army to find relief for its material grievances (“The Army Revolt of 1647”). This chapter drew on an explored this aspect further in a very interesting way. I am curious as to why I have not heard more about the Levellers in city government. Baker argues that the leadership and the rank-and-file of the army opposed this decentralization, and so relevant proposals were withdrawn from later Agreements. However, Baker also argues that the Levellers themselves lost some of their steam for decentralization as their experiences with national and local governments made them doubt the “support and the judgment of their fellow man”(108). I really liked that last point.

Ch. 5: Rachel Foxley, “Freedom of Conscience and the Agreements of the People

This was a fascinating piece. Foxley is explaining the roots of the Levellers’ views on religious toleration and how those were different from Ireton and others.’ Religious toleration was fundamental to the Levellers in ways that it was not to others. It was the same as having political liberty.

The Levellers believed that, because compulsion in religion was not a power that an individual had, it could not be given by the people to the state. This is a fairly well known Leveller position. However, Foxley illustrates that the Levellers believed that the power of religion needed to be listed as a reserve from the government to make clear that it had no authority there. This was fundamental, because the Levellers believed that true government came from the people, not from God. For Ireton, magistrates did have divine approval. This illustrates the radicalism of the Leveller emphasis on government as a human institution, a belief that cost them the support of London congregations and put them at odds with the army grandees. Therefore, for Ireton, any Agreement should say that the government could not compel in matters of religion, but he fully believed that it had the authority to restrict in matters of religion, particularly to marginalize Catholics and prelacy.

The Levellers also argued that a person’s conscience was God-given, and therefore it was up to each person to make his or her own decisions, based on the way that God spoke to him or her. Foxley points out that this was also the motivation behind outlawing the draft. “Perhaps, indeed, it would not be going too far to say that the exercise of (individual) conscience in politics became one of the shibboleths that divided grandees from more radical army men” (16).

Ch. 6: Ian Gentles, “The New Model Army and the Constitutional Crisis of the Late 1640s”

This is a good article for getting context and background for the develops in the army and its relationship with the Levellers in the later 1640s. There is not a single argument that I can discuss here; it is more of a narrative.

Ch. 7: Frances Henderson, “Drafting the Officers’ Agreement of the People, 1648-49: A Reappraisal”

I am sometimes envious of Dr. Henderson and the amount of time she has been able to spend with the Clarke Papers. It seems like she is always finding something new and interesting. In this case, she is looking over an interim copy of the officers’ Agreement from Dec. 14, 1648. The discussion is very detailed, and I am not sure how much I can get into, especially considering this post’s current word count. Henderson argues that this draft of the Agreement in the Clarke Papers is a working draft of the Agreement, and not the Agreement decided on by the committee of 16 established by Lilburne and Ireton to draft a new Agreement. Henderson argues that Lilburne was writing truthfully when he wrote that he published the committee’s Agreement on Dec. 15, the day after he walked out of the Whitehall Debates. Henderson then uses the draft to show what the General Council had been up to on Dec. 12th and 13th, dates for which we have few sources to show what was being debated. The chapter ends with a transcript of the interim draft.

One takeaway from this piece, other than the usefulness of knowing what the General Council was up to during this busy period, is that Ireton was not playing the Levellers for fools. Lilburne came to believe that the debates over the Agreement were a ploy to keep the Levellers busy while the army set about executing the king and establishing its own power. The “painstaking” amount of work exhibited here suggests that Ireton and the army had every intention of settling the country through such an Agreement.

Ch. 8: Elliot Vernon, “‘A Firme and Present Peace; Upon Grounds of Common Right and Freedome’: The Debate on the Agreements of the People and the Crisis of the Constitution, 1647-59”

This chapter examined the Agreements as attempts to solve England’s constitutional crisis and the reception of the Agreements at large. This chapter examines how the Levellers became so closely associated with the first Agreement, despite that fact that it was not a Leveller document and that there was not group called “Levellers” before Putney. The innovative take on this part of Leveller history is that, simply, it was convenient for detractors to mash the two concepts together.

Vernon argues that the term Leveller came from the growing fears of social and religious disorder. Heresiographers, like Thomas Edwards, had stoked fears of social revolution. With the appearance of the Agreement and the threat of military imposition of that Agreement, people became convinced that there was a plot to kill the king and level society. The Agreement was the proof of such a plot, and it “would never lose this association in the polemical debates of the late 1640s and early 1650s” (200).

The Agreement also made people afraid of a future where people had too much freedom and society, as a democracy, would tear itself apart. It was perhaps made worse by the “secular formalism” of the proposed government that irked many fellow radicals. This included army divines like Joshua Sprigge and Sedgwick, who called it an “Agreement with death” (I always liked that one).

I like this piece because it ties together loose ends. It explains the appellation of Leveller, its links to the Agreement which was not originally a Leveller document, and how it played on fears across a broad political and religious spectrum. It is no wonder that no Agreement ever became the English constitution, despite eventually having the support of the army.

Ch. 9: Ann Hughes, “Diggers, True Levellers and the Crisis of the English Revolution”

Hughes makes the excellent point here that the Diggers and the Levellers were not related. Hughes has had a great deal of experience with the Diggers lately as one of the editors of the works of Gerrard Winstanley, and she notes that Winstanley himself rarely made common cause with the Levellers (I think it showed up in one or two pamphlets, but was probably more of an attempt at finding common cause rather than a demonstration of it) and that they wanted fundamentally different things. The Levellers wanted to create secular government, Winstanley wanted to God to help humanity recreate the beginning of the world. Winstanley’s project was inherently divine in nature. It was just convenient for commentators to lump the two groups together because the Levellers drew more attention, whereas the Diggers were what people thought that the Levellers were trying to be. In other words, the Diggers were actually trying to level men’s estates, so why not put them together with the group had been dubbed Levellers?

Ch. 10: David L. Smith, “The Agreements of the People and the Constitutions of the Interregnum”

This chapter traces the influence of the Agreements on reform and constitutional developments in the 1650s. Smith notes that the Rump had begun some piecemeal reforms regarding elections, religion, and justice. However, it was the Instrument of Government that showed the most influence from the Agreements, primarily in the franchise and distribution of seats, mainly drawing on the officers’ Agreement. However, with the Humble Petition and Advice, there was a distinct move away from the Agreements over religious toleration, the franchise, the distribution of seats, and the creation of a second house of parliament. The piece was frequently cited throughout the rest of the volume and is worth a read.

Wrap it up

Sorry for finishing so abruptly, but I saw how long this review was getting. The volume is really worth a read. I do think that Leveller and army history is being rewritten right now, and this book is making a significant contribution.

I hope that I will be able to keep up this more regular pace for writing posts. I am not sure what I will review next. I have some other recent books to look at, like Foxley’s book, I have some books on public history that I am reading, and I need to buckle down on some of my own research. I want to keep working on the history of the London agent, perhaps looking at what I can find on Sir Thomas Clarges and Capt. Adam Baynes. I am not sure if I have the money on hand to get copies of the volumes of Baynes’s correspondence at the BL right now, though. I may also want to go back in time and look at a Jacobean or an Elizabethan agent, but I am better prepared to work on another Civil War era agent. I will figure that out soon, hopefully. Suggestions are welcome.

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Footnotes on the iPad update

I have found that, without question, the most popular post on this blog was about using footnotes on the iPad. However, that post is very old, and some new things have happened since then.

I will assume that it is primarily academics and a handful of other professionals who need to know how to use footnotes on the iPad, so I will tailor this discussion to them. In short, the best app for footnotes on the iPad is still Pages. All you have to do is point where you want the note, press the “+” button on the lower right of the screen, and select footnote. It is as easy as it gets.

That is not to say that there are not some real problems with Pages, and I would say that using Pages is only practical if you also have Pages on your computer, which means that you need a mac. I say this because the Pages defaults are wildly stupid, and many cannot be changed on your iPad. For example, the main problem with the footnotes is that Pages automatically puts an extra line break in between your footnotes. I suppose that this is not the worst thing, and you can transfer the document to a Word format and it will be fine; it just drives me crazy. Why is that the default?! Why can’t I change it on my iPad?! The only way to avoid the problem is to create a document formatted the way that you want it on your home computer and send it to your iPad. In fact, that is the only way in which writing on your iPad is ever going to be practical. Format some documents the way that you want them on your computer, and then use them like templates on your iPad.

The main reason that I say that you need Pages on your computer is because you do not want to be translating Pages to Word, back and forth, to work on your iPad and on your home computer. It adds in a variety of problems with formatting and styles. When I write, I do it all in Pages and transfer it once to Word. That seems to work well.

There are some other options for footnotes on the iPad, but they are less practical. Quickoffice does not have them at all, so forget that. Docs2Go will display your footnotes and it will let you add them, but there is no way to edit them. Once they are in there, there is no changing them. Also, it changes my font when I move a Word document to Docs2Go. Next!

HopTo seemed promising, but it does not appear to have any footnote functions. GoDocs, which allows you use your Google docs, will allow you to use footnotes, but it is buggy (when I changed my gmail password after the heartbleed fiasco, I had to delete the app and reload it because it got stuck trying to log me in) and awkward to use. In order to insert a footnote, you need to use the desktop version (as opposed to mobile) of the document editor, which does not work well with the iPad pop-up keyboard. It is better if you have a bluetooth keyboard. This is a workable option, but not as clean or easy-to-use as Pages. Also, what if I need to work away from a wifi connection? I am not sure how well it would work.

Finally, you do now have the option of using the entire Microsoft Office suite on your iPad. I have not used it, but it claims to have the full usability of the desktop software. Reviews on the iTunes store are mixed, but I imagine that it does the job. The problem, for me, is the price. There is a minimum subscription of $7/month. That would be $84/year, every year. The iWork suite is free (or $10 per app, depending on when you bought your computer) for the desktop computer and $10 per app for the iPhone or iPad (with three apps, that is $30) to buy them forever, and they work on as many devices as I want. With the Microsoft $7 subscription, the Office suite works on only one mobile device.

I have done my share of cursing at Pages and Numbers (I generally like Keynote). The newest versions are less intuitive and powerful than the older versions. They have idiotic defaults. Apple clearly cares more about making them pretty than functional. The apps are not backward compatible and every few years I have to open and resave relevant Pages documents so that they can be usable on my iPad and the current version of Pages on my computer (this one really makes me angry; if I can open a paper I wrote in high school using Word, why can’t I open something I wrote two years ago on Pages?!). However, the iWork suite in general and Pages in particular are the most practical solution for academic and professional work on the iPad. If you must use Office and price is not a problem, buy a Microsoft subscription. If you think that Microsoft already gets too much of your money, go with Apple. That may be the first time anyone has ever said that.

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What can you do with a History Ph.D.?

I have been seeing a number of articles and initiatives meant to foster greater career diversity among History Ph.D.s lately, including a whole postdoc devoted to it at New Mexico. I am sure that this has been going on for some time, but I have noticed it more lately because of my own predicament. I have been on the market for three years, I received my doctorate earlier this year, and I have yet to find full-time employment. With a child and a mortgage, the situation is rapidly becoming more serious. As most in my position know, the academic job market is terrible, and it seems the early modern European history market is shrinking rather than expanding. Meanwhile, there is a tremendous backlog of doctors out there who have graduated in recent years and have been unable to find employment for the above reasons and because the economic downturn upended job searches for several years. I ran across an article published by the AHA last year discussing the career tracks of people with degrees in history. In short, about half do not have tenure-track positions. Many of those are teaching in contract positions, but a substantial proportion have left academia altogether. You may also want to look at this piece at the History News Network and the study published by the MLA about the literary PhD (and for good measure, this one discussing some of the major criticisms of the MLA study).

As my job search continues to be fruitless, I have been applying to many non-academic jobs. This is not entirely because of the difficulty in finding an academic job; after so many years of part-time teaching and working on my dissertation, I am increasingly set on finding a job that actually pays me for doing work. For anyone out there, particularly outside of academia, who thinks that professors get summers off and don’t have to work that much, I want to tell you that that is not the case. It is, however, the case that professors are not paid for significant parts of their work that benefit students and their institutions. I realize how that can be confusing.

Here are some things that I have learned so far. I should have taken the opportunity to work at ABC-Clio (which resource you know if you have done much historical research on online databases) when I had the chance. It was based right next to UCSB. I also wish that I had found more ways to be engaged with some of the other digital humanities projects going on. I suppose that the key thing that I learned is that I should have used every opportunity to get experience that would have been useful for a job outside of academia.

I also learned that while historians are very skilled, there really is not much of a market for those skills. I had thought that some kind of writing job would be a good fit because history is such a writing-intensive discipline. However, most people do not recognize that. Also, most writing jobs emphasize marketing experience. I have applied to a number of writing-related jobs with no results. Oh, and build up your social media credibility; that is in a lot of job ads.

The other major part of being an historian is research, and we are excellent at that. However, most research that people want to pay you for is heavily quantitative. While my dissertation did involve some quantitative analysis, most of it is heavily qualitative and source-based. Take for example a job that I applied to (and have not heard anything back) at the IRS. It was for a social scientist. Essentially, the job is to figure out why people do not pay their taxes and to find ways to encourage them to do so. The simple answers to those problems are obvious, but the job sounds interesting to me and would seem to work well with my training. However, the position wanted someone from a social science field with lots of experience with statistical analysis. I am good at math and took a relevant course or two in college, but with my degrees I am afraid that I will not be considered at all for this position.

I am afraid that I do not have many answers to the title of this post. Yes, suggestions for revising the doctoral program and adding training that could be more widely applicable sound like a good idea. However, for those of us who have already finished our programs, what options do we have? Even if I get a one-year, full-time position for next year (an increasingly remote possibility), am I just dooming myself to another year of a frustrating job search? And, as I sometimes wonder in the middle of the night, at what point am I just participating in my own oppression?

There are a variety websites devoted to answering these kinds of questions. My favorite thus far is Versatile PhD. If you are lucky, your institution has a premium subscription. If not, you could join the AHA, which will also allow you access to premium content. When I am feeling particularly defeated or in need of inspiration, I can usually find some comfort there. One other major suggestion that I have is to take a look at federal jobs. Depending on what kind of job you get, you may be able to bargain for the US government to repay all or part of your student loans.

I think that the hardest part about leaving academia is finding a way to make the PhD worthwhile, because otherwise you feel like you have wasted years of your life. That said, don’t fall victim to the adjunct grind. Yes, it is something that you can do with your PhD, but with or without a PhD you are worth more than that. Anyone is worth more than that. So my suggestion is to think about things that you are better at than the other 99% of the population because of the process of getting your degree. If you come up with a clever answer, try it out and let me know.

PSA: The Chronicle of Education has a job/social media cite called Vitae. You have probably discovered that already. What you may not know is that it gives you the ability to automatically fill out your information in a college’s HR software, thus saving you the trouble of entering the same information for every job application.

Side note: I am not finished with Baker and Vernon yet. There has been too much going on around the house for me to devote enough time to it, but I will get a review up as soon as I can. Until then, why don’t you read that book that you have been meaning to get to?

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The Regicides and the Execution of Charles I (review)

So, it has been a while since my last, yet again. Things I learned: teaching American History is very easy and Winstanley had a very interesting mind. I am currently trying to rework an article to make it publishable (we will see how that goes) and am looking for full-time employment. It is likely that I will be leaving academia. Oh, and my first article just came out in Parliamentary History. But on to the topic of this post.

I will be writing a partial review of Jason Peacey, ed., The Regicides and the Execution of Charles I (New York: PALGRAVE, 2001). I have read chapters from this book before, but I recently called it back up from the library to look it back over while putting some polish on my article. I have not read all of the pieces and I will not even be reviewing all of the chapters that I have. For instance, Jason Peacey’s chapter, “Reporting a Revolution: a Failed Propaganda Campaign” is worth a read, but because I discuss it in my article, you can see some of my take on it in my article, if it ever comes out. Instead I will be reviewing these chapters:  John Morrill and Philip Baker, “Oliver Cromwell, the Regicide and the Sons of Zeruiah”; John Adamson, “The Frighted Junto: Perceptions of Ireland, and the Last Attempts at Settlement with Charles I”; Sean Kelsey, “Staging the Trial of Charles I”; David Scott, “Motives for King-Killing”; Andrew Sharp, “The Levellers and the End of Charles I”; and Elliot Vernon, “The Quarrel of the Covenant: the London Presbyterians.”

One of the biggest mysteries surrounding the regicide is when Oliver Cromwell decided to kill the king. After all, his decision was the most important. One of the traditional dates for this decision is late December (perhaps Dec. 26) 1648 and the failure of the earl of Denbigh’s mission to reach some kind of accord with the king. This mission has traditionally been dated Dec. 25. Gardiner believed that while Cromwell had wanted to save the king’s life, Charles’s refusal to even meet with Denbigh turned Cromwell against him (Gardiner, 4:285-7). Recently, Mark Kishlansky has thrown this chronology into disarray. In “Mission Impossible: Charles I, Oliver Cromwell, and the Regicide” (2010), Kishlansky argues that the Denbigh mission never happened. I bring this up because Kishansky’s argument, which appears sound, has to force us to reevaluate the sequence of decision-making, but these chapters were written nearly a decade before Kishlansky’s piece was published. They all assume the existence of the Denbigh mission. I want to be clear, I do not fault them for this; everyone accepted the existence of the Denbigh mission. Their arguments just have to be taken with a little more salt.

Ch. 1: Morrill and Baker, ” Oliver Cromwell, the Regicide and the Sons of Zeruiah,” 14-35.

Morrill and Baker seek to show the evolution of Cromwell’s thinking about Charles from October 1647. They do this using the lens of biblical allusion. Perhaps my favorite line from the whole piece is that “there is not a shred of evidence from this period that Cromwell read anything other than the Bible” (17). The authors argue that Cromwell was not opposed to monarchy itself before the regicide, but he became convinced by early November 1647 that God wanted Charles to be struck down, but he was uncertain about his and the army’s role.

The piece gets its title from one of Cromwell’s allusions. When Col. Harrison called for the prosecution of the king in 1647, Cromwell made a reference to David saying that he would not prosecute Joab for killing Abner because “the sons of Zeruiah were too hard for him.” The implication was that while Charles did deserve punishment, he was too dangerous for justice. The constant refrain throughout the chapter is that Cromwell wanted Charles dead, but also believed that killing him was a bad idea.

Morrill and Baker conclude that Cromwell was resolved on trying Charles by Nov. 25, 1648, but he had not committed himself to abolishing monarchy or necessarily killing the king, though the latter was a definite possibility. They show that Cromwell was not interested in overthrowing the monarchy through his references to the story of Gideon and Isaiah.

My own grasp of these biblical allusions is very weak, so I am not in a position to evaluate their accuracy, but from what I can understand Morrill and Baker have done something very interesting and useful here. It is generally accepted that Cromwell was a very devout man, and so it seems odd that there has not been more of these studies before now. In the absence of clear evidence about Cromwell’s sentiments leading up the regicide, his biblical reading and meditation are the best ways to understand his thinking.

Ch, 2: Adamson, “The Frighted Junto,” 36-70.

It may not surprise you to learn that Kishlansky took a very unflattering view of Adamson’s chapter. If there was not Denbigh mission, many parts of Adamson’s argument become suspect. However, he does follow through on one of his main purposes for his paper: to remind us that Charles was the king of three kingdoms. He also wants to explain the delay between Pride’s Purge and the king’s trial and the last minute attempts to make an accommodation with the king, particularly the Denbigh mission, despite the fact that the New Model’s “clarity of purpose . . . had shown through its public manifestos in November” (36-7).

Adamson, in keeping with his views of the wars as a final baronial revolt, puts a handful of lords at the center of the politics of the regicide. The delay of the trial was part of an attempt to get some of the Independent peers on board, or at least to keep them from becoming enemies. Warwick was a key figure in this because he controlled the fleet. Because of the “revolted ships” (mutinous ships that broke off from the rest of the fleet) and a potential invasion from Ireland, it was very important to keep Warwick happy.

Adamson makes a lot of guesses about secret meetings and peace proposals. For instance, he argues that Warwick brought proposals to settle the kingdom of some sort to Fairfax, but it is not clear what those were. Also, he argues that the Independent peers used the new of a trade agreement between the Dutch and the Kilkenny Confederation, making them defensive allies, to put pressure on the army to reach an accord with the king. The evidence for these meetings and plans do not appear to rest on clear evidence, but appear to be rumors more often than not.

There is much clearer evidence for the fear of Ormond. The army was enraged by Charles’s attempt to start a third war. Adamson also argues that the Denbigh mission was part of an attempt to halt plans for an Irish invasion. However, with the failure of the Denbigh mission, Cromwell began to accept that there would have to be a trial. Adamson believes that Cromwell had been trying to postpone or avoid a trial, and instead wanted to exact justice against notable royalists.

When it looked like Charles, Ormond, and Inchiquin were planning to go forward with an Irish invasion, the Lords tried to get parliament to pass a bill that made it treason for a king to raise a new war against parliament, which would have absolved him for the last two wars, but not if he launched a third; it was a threat. According to Adamson, attempts to reach an agreement with the king to halt an invasion continued, perhaps into the trial. However, “what the trial established, then, far more decisively than the monarch’s guilt for crimes past, was Charles I’s continuing determination to fight another war” (61). Adamson ends with the provocative line: “On the scaffold outside the Banqueting House, Charles I became the first casualty of the Cromwellian reconquest of Ireland” (62).

If there was no Denbigh mission, than much of Adamson’s argument does not hold up. Even so, there is not much supporting evidence for the behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing that the Lords were supposed to have been behind. However, the arguments concerning the fears of an Irish invasion appear sound. So much focus has been made on Charles’s “blood guilt” that, in much of what I have seen, not enough attention has been paid to Charles’s intention to start a third war. If the second was damning, the third would have been wantonly evil. In this way, Adamson has integrated the story of the regicide into the revisionist “wars of the three kingdoms.”

Ch. 3: Kelsey, “Staging the Trial of Charles I,” 71-93.

If you have not read any of Kelsey’s pieces, he wishes to prove that the trial of the king was not originally intended to be a show trial, but was part of an “extended negotiation” with the king. This negotiation failed because Charles refused to submit to the court and enter a plea. The piece in this book refers to that argument, but seeks to make a much more guarded point, that the people involved with the trial had different goals in mind, and not all of them were intent on regicide. Kelsey uses the symbolism of the materials used on the court and the insistence on there being a trial in Westminster under parliamentary control prove the above point. As an example, he argues that, because most of the commissioners appointed to the High Court of Justice were connected to parliament and because the trial was held in Westminster rather than Windsor, the message to Charles was that parliament was in charge and that the ancient constitution was not being threatened.

Kelsey’s other works have recently been taken to task by Clive Holmes, who dissects and disproves many of Kelsey’s arguments. My own work on the regicide, which may or may not be published sometime in the future, has also worked against Kelsey’s interpretation. However, the more careful point that Kelsey makes toward the end of this piece is more compelling. He says that “the trial had not been intended as a ramp for a republican settlement. By giving all parties something to hold onto, it had become the only way to keep on board as many parliamentarians as possible after the revolutionary hurricane broke at Westminster in December 1648” (86). While I am not sure that agree with all of the interpretations of the evidence here, this point warrants more consideration. If we are to follow Underdown and Worden, as I assume that we should, that in the aftermath of the Purge, Cromwell and the New Model officers tried to bring as many moderates on board with the new government as possible, even to the point of watering down the Engagement to the new government and cost of readmittance, why should this have not been the case with the High Court of Justice? When you kill a king, you do not want to be standing alone, after all, and by bringing on more moderates, you might be able to counterbalance the more radically minded conspirators (86).

Ch. 6: Scott, “Motives for King-Killing,” 138-60.

I thoroughly enjoyed this piece though, as Scott admits, there is not enough evidence to be certain about much. Scott wants to try to give backgrounds to some of the regicides to better understand why they would have signed the death warrant. While he cannot discuss all of them, he instead chose to focus on the regicides from the north: Westmorland, Cumberland, Northumberland, Durham, and Yorkshire. There were a surprising number of regicides from these five counties, and Scott wants to know why.

Republicanism was not a major motivator for most of these men. Scott frequently pointed to defense of godly religion as being centrally important, but it is not always easy to see how he made those leaps. For instance, with regard to John Alured, Scott assumes that because he did not appear to be a social or political revolutionary, “his motivation for regicide was either millenarian zeal or militant Puritan notions concerning the workings of providence” (145).

I enjoyed this piece as much as I did because it brought back the three-kingdom problem. In this case, the problem was not Ireland, but Scotland. Scott reads into these men, and the north in general, a powerful anti-Scottish feeling. Scott points out that these counties had the most experience with the Scottish armies, as allies to the English parliament and as enemies. Therefore, when the king allied with the Scots, he earned their hatred. This combined both the three-kingdom dimension to the war and the sense of Charles’s blood guilt.

Ch. 8: Sharp, “The Levellers and the End of Charles I,” 181-201.

Sharp’s overall goal is to explain how the Levellers came to be accused of royalism despite their anti-monarchial writings. He also wants to explain why the Levellers, who should have been overjoyed by the regicide because they had been asking for the king to be punished for years, came to oppose it. In short, the Levellers were ambiguous about the regicide when it happened. They came out against it because they were upset with the way the army was settling the kingdom, or, in Sharp’s words: ““Leveller royalism, such as it was, was the accidental production of the odium in which they held the new regime” (198).

Sharp’s argument is fairly simply stated and his evidence is not new, taking lots from Leveller pamphlets, particularly Lilburne’s Legal Fundamentall Liberties, so I am not going to go too deeply into it. The argument makes sense and does a good job of explaining the gap in Leveller propaganda in late 1648 and early 1649. He shows that Lilburne, from the start of the Whitehall Debates, made it clear that he did not trust the army to carry out justice against the king before they settled the kingdom, because he believed that the king was necessary to counterbalance the army for the time being. This is where Leveller royalism came from. I would recommend reading the chapter.

However, Sharp makes two points that, while not critical to his argument, were more questionable. Sharp agrees with Lilburne that Ireton used the debates over the Agreement to distract the Levellers while he and the officers went about preparing to execute Charles. This may be true, but it is a contested point, and I am not sure that there is enough evidence to prove it. Second, he points out that the Moderate supported the trial and execution, but refers to the newsbook as a Leveller paper, following Howell and Brewster. This would seem to work against his argument which depends on the Levellers having mixed feelings over the High Court of Justice. My own reading of the Moderate is that it was not a Leveller newsbook, but a radical Independent publication. This generally agrees with the interpretation by Jürgen Diethe, though I differ with him on a number of details. I would say that you could read about that in the fourth chapter of my dissertation, but it won’t be available for another 1.5 years. In any case, this latter reading of the Moderate helps to smooth out Sharp’s argument for the better.

Ch. 9: Vernon, “The Quarrrel of the Covenant”

I admit that I had never paid too much attention to the Presbyterian response to the regicide. I have looked at a lot (probably most) of the surviving pamphlets from this period and I noted some consistent themes, but because it was not my primary interest and what I saw generally seemed to match what I expected, I did not adventure further. Vernon explains the main thrusts of Presbyterian propaganda in this period as they sought to stop the regicide.

There were a few steps to this process. First, the Sion College ministers had to prove that they could legitimately get involved in politics. They used Paul and various parts of the Old Testament to do so, arguing that it was their duty to renounce sin or else be stained with it.

Then they had to answer charges that their own declarations from earlier in the war made regicide possible. They argued instead that it was the army that was breaking the rules of resistance. The Presbyterian ministers said that they had argued for resisting Charles through the lesser magistrate theory of resistance; parliament, which was itself part of the supreme authority over England along with the king, could justly resist the king. The army, however, was a “multitude of Private Persons” who had no authority to resist on its own (207).

The ministers kept going back to first engagements to demonstrate the army’s error. After all, if the army had been created by parliament to resist the king, how could the army use force against it? Also, if the war was about defending rights, privileges, and religion, what authority was there to kill a king? The Presbyterians kept going back to the Covenant, which itself became a “Presbyterian shibboleth” (212). This was a religious oath that the Presbyterians believed the army was breaking and in doing so threatened the country’s relationship with God.

There is a bit more to the argument than this, but it became clear that the central part of their argument against the regicide was the Covenant.

A few last general thoughts:

Much has been made over Charles’s blood guilt, and certainly that appears to have been a central motivation for regicide, but one thing that a few of these pieces make is that it was not just the past wars but the threat of future war that made it necessary to kill Charles. In general, more attention needs to be paid to the Wars of the Three Kingdoms aspect and more tangible parts of the war, such as suffering, than religious and political arguments over whether or not it was okay to kill the king While it is no longer a new book, I think it does help to stimulate further thinking about the regicide, and through that, the nature of the conflicts of the 1640s.

I have begun reading Baker and Vernon’s edited collection on the Agreements of the People. With my other responsibilities (child care, household maintenance, applying for jobs, etc.) I only get at best a chapter of reading in a night, but I will be putting together a review of it when I am done. I have gotten a lot out of their work in the past, so I am optimistic about the book. It has been nice having even the limited time that I have to get back into keeping up with the scholarship of the period.

This blog post has already chewed quite a bit of my time, so it has only received very cursory proofreading. My apologies.

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US History and Gerrard Winstanley

First, a little on teaching U.S. history. It is surprisingly easy. As a well worn survey course, there is a very clear path for teaching it. Despite my earlier reservations, I am enjoying teaching it. The material seems to affect the students far more deeply since it is not so far removed from them either geographically or temporally. My students have generally been stunned to learn about some of the utterly awful things that the U.S. has done and have really engaged with some of the material. I think I may have gone too far last week with a source about abandoned and murdered babies in New York. Even I had a hard time getting through that one. I haven’t seen my students since then, but I will bet that they will have a lot to say on it. I wonder if this is what it is like teaching a nation’s history in that nation. Would it be like teaching English history in England?

I am proceeding with learning about Winstanley.  He is fascinating.  I have read a good amount of secondary material on him—but there is so much that I have barely scratched the surface—and am currently working my way through Law of Freedom. There isn’t too much in the way of utopian literature from this period, but this one merits a read.

My paper is taking shape in my head.  I am planning to discuss Joachim of Fiore a little bit to see his larger historical plan.  Then I am going to show its continuing relevance in the Radical Reformation through Thomas Müntzer and one of his printers, Hans Hergot. Both have distinct Joachist leanings.  What will be useful here is to start considering the utopias laid out by Fiore, Hergot, and Winstanley. I still don’t know too much about Fiore’s other than some broad outlines, but Hergot’s and Winstanley’s show some similarities.  Most importantly, both have retained clear government despite believing that they were part of the age of the Holy Spirit in which equality and freedom would reign.  I will mostly focus on the concepts of equality and freedom presented in these works.  Winstanley is particularly fascinating because his version of freedom allowed for a totalitarian government.  Something that seems to come out of both sources is that freedom means having freedom from economic dependence.

Here are some observations that I made about Winstanley so far, most of which I have not seen others discuss, but some that I have.  Overall, I have started to view him as a version of Carlo Ginzburg’s Menocchio.  He appears to have cobbled together his philosophy from different things he has heard or read. He frequently makes use of concepts or words particularly popular in the late 1640s (like “no respecter of persons” and saluus populi, suprema lex).  I think he may have been an Arminian, or at least he was not a fan of predestination.  I’m not sure where he would have picked this up, but he may not have believed in heaven or hell.  He picked up some Baconian philosophy and appears to have some knowledge of developing reforms in natural philosophy. He was a big fan of understanding God through his “second book.”  I could probably dig up more, but I am guessing that this was the result of his haphazard education, as others like James Alsop have remarked upon, and a tendency to be, as Winstanley described, one who “keeps his thoughts to himself” while searching for answers.

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A new year

I suppose that my New Year’s resolution could be to keep up with this blog, but that seems like a sad resolution. Nonetheless, I am going to make more of an effort to update frequently, though I cannot promise that the content will be particularly scintillating.
The big news is that I have finally filed my dissertation. The degree will not be officially conferred until March, but I have gone about changing my email signatures and so on to reflect my imminent Ph.D. It is a great relief to finally be done. Filing is also what makes me think that I will be able to update this blog more often. It was difficult to justify spending time on a blog instead of writing my dissertation, but now the dissertation is over. Oh, and don’t go looking for the dissertation. No one will be able to read it for at least two years.
I am continuing as an adjunct at GGC, but this semester, in addition to a World History 1 class, I am teaching the second part of the American history survey. I have absolutely no background in American history beyond having grown up here, so prepping this class will be quite a challenge. Still, I figure that having it on the CV couldn’t hurt when looking for work. This year’s job market has been brutal. If I can’t find an academic job, I plan to pursue another line of employment. I have a family, after all.
So, to let you know what you are getting in for, if you plan to read this at all, most of my posts will be on matters relevant to my life right now. This means teaching American history, teaching in general, having a toddler, minor home repairs, and the Diggers. I submitted a proposal for a paper on the Diggers not thinking it would be accepted, and now I have to write the darned thing. So I will be looking at Gerrard Winstanley and some other examples of the Radical Reformation to look for commonalities, particularly with regard to common property, and also seeing in what ways I can tie them back to Joachim of Fiore. When I was teaching History of Christianity, 1300-1648, this summer, I was surprised how frequently Fiore’s tripartite version of history kept popping up and how similar it was to some radical groups. I don’t know if this has been done before. Like I said, I didn’t really think the paper would get accepted, or else I probably would have submitted something else. It just fit really well with the conference’s theme. At some point, I will probably start ruminating on the irony of thinking so much about teaching while studying Winstanley, who thought that the teacher-student relationship was a form of tyranny used by the powerful to control the weak. If I remember correctly, Thomas Müntzer said something very similar. Maybe I will bring him up, too. Oh, and I will have to read Ethan Shagan’s book on moderation. More on that later. Happy New Year!


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AHA, Christmas . . .

I am currently sitting in my hotel room at the AHA conference in New Orleans. My wife and infant son (who is about the cutest baby in the whole world) are not with me, unfortunately. I have been reviewing old notes and lecture plans to prepare for an interview tomorrow. Now seemed as good a time as any to reflect on my own and the more general history.
To update on me, my wife and I had a wonderful baby boy, and we have been very happy despite the assorted troubles that go with having a newborn. He is generally quite happy and sweet. My work on my dissertation has slowed considerably, but I have been making progress in recent days, and plan to finish this school year. I have been teaching world history at Georgia Gwinnett College, and next semester, in addition to GGC, I will be picking up a class at Kennesaw State University.
To any relatively new grad students out there, I have some advice. 1. Make sure that you can teach world history. All the work I have been able to get has hinged largely on my ability to teach world history. Make sure that your fourth field and possibly your third are as eclectic as possible. My fourth field is Japanese history, and I am very grateful for it. My third field is Sci. Rev., which also has opened the door to places that lack anyone who does history of science. Make sure that you can teach broadly, because most departments are small and you are much more attractive if you can do many things. Being comfortable teaching world history also means that you can say something (if only one thing) to almost any historian which won’t sound entirely stupid or made up. 2. If at all possible, get some experience teaching writing. This is not possible at all institutions, but what interviews I have had have shown me that whether or not you intend to teach writing, people like to see that there. Most historians don’t actually know how to go about teaching writing, but it is very important to us. 3. If given the opportunity to teach a class, teach something at the edge of your abilities. It is very tempting to teach your major field, but being able to prove to potential employers that you can teach all the things you say you can is very helpful. They know you can teach your primary field; it’s the others that are in doubt. 4. Oh, and this is a bit of a side thought, but make sure to pay attention in your methodology class. You would be surprised how useful that will be. 5. Take copious notes on your computer and sign up for a cloud service. Make sure that those notes and all your teaching materials are up there, too. It never hurts to have easy access to those things when away from home. I recommend sugarsync.
That was all advice (except for the last) that I have received from a variety of people over the course of my graduate career, but considering the path of my career, I think they are among the most useful pieces of advice I have received.
My fingers are crossed for tomorrow, though I know that the odds are not in my favor. It is hopefully only the first of many such opportunities.
The title of this post comes from a pamphlet from 1647 (or possibly 1646, I don’t really feel like looking it up right now). I used to see it abbreviated as “Aha! Christmas . . . ” and it was connected to the Christmas riots that followed parliament’s attempt to halt the celebration of Christmas. It does not have much to do with this post, except that it includes the words “AHA” and “Christmas,” and the latter is only relevant because it was recently Christmas. I just thought it was a funny title/abbreviation.


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