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Radicalism in the English Revolution 1640-1660 (HI312) - Topic 3

Topic 3: Religious Radicalism in the 1640s


Seminar Themes:
  • What were the most common beliefs and attitudes among the radical religious groups?
  • Why were the groups so fluid?
  • How do we explain the strength of millenarian expectations?
  • What role did women play?
  • Why were the sects so feared and hated?
  • Can we establish any evidence of 'core' Ranter ideas, and an organization?
  • Why was anti-clericalism so strong?


A. Primary Sources:
  • T. Edwards, Gangraena (1646). An alarmist collection of 'heresies' published by a prominent Presbyterian.
  • N. Cohn The Pursuit of the Millenium, appendix on the Ranters.
  • A. Coppe A Fiery Flying Rolle (Coppe was a leading Ranter).
  • Anon, A Glimpse of Sions Glory, 1641 (millenarian)
  • Certain Queries, 1649 (radical reaction to the execution of Charles I).

B. Other Primary Sources

N. Smith, ed. A Collection of Ranter Writings

J. Bunyan Grace Abounding, ed Sharrock, esp pp 1-37, 78-95. Bunyan's autobiography.

N. Cohn Pursuit of the Millenium: other documents in the appendix.

C. Secondary Reading
i) The Major Themes

C. Hill The World Turned Upside Down (essential: covers most of the ideas and movements in a general synthesis), chaps. 1-3,6,8-9,15.

J. Morrill 'The Church of England, 1642-49' in Morrill, ed Reactions to the English Civil War 1642-1649 (1982) on popular conservatism

C. Durston & Judith Maltby eds.,Religion in Revolutionary England (2006). Essays on toleration, the national church, the Lord's Day, Baptists.

M. James 'The Political Importance of the Tithes Controversy,' History, 1941-2 .


C. Hill Antichrist in Seventeenth-century England, chap. 3.

B S Capp 'The political dimension' (esp. section 4) in The Apocalypse, ed C A Patrides and J. Wittreich.

P. Christianson Reformers and Babylon: English apocalyptic visions from the Reformation to the eve of the civil war (1978), esp. chap. 5.

Religion & the Army

I. Gentles The New Model Army (1992), chap. 4.

C. Firth Cromwell's army chap. 13.

W. Haller 'The Word of God in the New Model Army' Church History, 1950.


K V Thomas 'Women and the Civil War Sects., Past & Present, 13; also in T. Aston , ed Crisis in Europe

C. Cross 'Women and the Civil War Churches' in Studies in Church History, vol. 8 ed. G. Cuming (shelfmark BR141).

C. Durston The Family in the English Revolution.

P. Mack Visionary Women (1992), esp. Ch. 3.

R. Greaves (ed) Triumph over Silence: Women in Protestant History, (ch. 4 by D. Ludlow) (and see supplementary reading list)

The Conservative Viewpoint

J. Coffey, 'The toleration controversy during the English Revolution' in C. Durston & Judith Maltby eds.,Religion in Revolutionary England (2006)

A. Hughes Gangraena and the Struggle for the English Revolution (2004)

C. Russell 'Arguments for Religious Unity,' Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 1967.

A.Hughes, 'Approaches to Presbyterian Book Culture: Thomas Edwards's Gangraena, as source and text' in J. Andersen and E. Sauer, eds., Books and Readers in Early Modern England (2002)

ii) Separate Movements
General Surveys

Andrew Bradstock, Radical Religion in Cromwell’s England (2011), chaps. 1 (Baptists), 4 (Ranters)

J F McGregor & B. Reay, eds., Radical Religion in the English Revolution (1985), chaps. 1,2 (Baptists) and 5 (Seekers and Ranters).

W. Haller Liberty and Reformation, esp. chaps 4a-b 5a, 6, 7a, 7d.

M R Watts The Dissenters, vol.i (1978), esp. chap. 2 (the major groups of 1640-60).

M. Tolmie The Triumph of the Saints: The Separate Churches of London 1616-49 (includes a section on the Gangraena controversy)


A L Morton The World of the Ranters (also good material on Gangraena and the Seekers)

J.F. McGregor & B Reay, eds., Radical Religion, chap. 5

J.C. Davis Fear, Myth and History (1986) argues "the Ranters" did not exist. See replies by Aylmer in Past & Present, 1987, and by Hill in his A Nation of Change and Novelty (1990) chap. 9.

J.C. Davis 'Fear, Myth and Furore', Past & Present, 129 (1990).

McGregor, Capp,Smith, Gibbons, 'Debate: Fear, Myth and Furore:Reappraising the Ranters, Past & Present 140 (1993).

J C Davis and: N Smith, ed A Collection of Ranter Writings (useful introduction)

B. Reay 'Lawrence Clarkson', in Hill, World of the Muggletonians; and see also Hill, WTUD

G F S Ellens 'The Ranters Ranting: Reflections on a Ranting Counter-Culture', Church History, 40 (1971).

Note also

I. Green 'The Persecution of "Scandalous" and "Malignant" Parish Clergy during the English Civil War, English Historical Review 94 (1979).

NB Essential reading for the seminar: Hill (World Upside Down), Bradstock or McGregor & Reay; Watts; at least one piece on the army and on millenarianism.