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Jonathan Healey on The Blazing World

Tuesday 7th February 2023

Topping & Company Booksellers of Bath, York Street, Bath, Somerset BA1 1NG
Doors Open
Start Time

Jonathan Healey is a historian of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and Associate Professor in Social History at the University of Oxford. He writes history from the bottom up, focusing on ordinary people - their lives, loves, culture and politics. In 2012 he was picked as one of the winners of BBC Radio 3's New Generation Thinkers Competition.

He joins us to give a talk on his new book The Blazing World: A History of Revolutionary England.

The seventeenth century began as the English suddenly found themselves ruled by a Scotsman, and it ended in the shadow of an invasion by the Dutch.

Under James I, the country suffered terrorism and witch panics. Under his son Charles, state and society collapsed into civil war, to be followed by an army coup and regicide. For a short time - for the only time in history - England was a republic.

There were bitter struggles over faith and no boundaries to politics. In the coffee shops and alehouses of plague-ridden London, new ideas were forged that were angry, populist and almost impossible for monarchs to control. Despite the radical changes that transformed England, few today understand the story of this revolutionary age. Leaders like Oliver Cromwell, Charles II, and William of Orange have been reduced to caricatures, while major turning points like the Civil War and Glorious Revolution have become shrouded in myth and misunderstanding.

Yet the seventeenth century has never been more relevant. The British constitution is once again being contested, and we face a culture war reminiscent of when the Roundheads fought the Cavaliers. From raw politics to religious divisions, civil wars to witch trials, plague to press freedoms, The Blazing World is the story of a strange but fascinating century, told in sparkling detail. Drawing on vast archives, Jonathan refreshes our understanding of public figures while simultaneously taking us into the lives of ordinary people to illuminate a revolutionary society that forged a new world.