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November 2016

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John Morrill at BSix

John Morrill is a well -known historian from Cambridge University. He is a world expert on England in the mid-17th century.

John made his name from the 1970s as a leading light of a group of so-called revisionist historians. They rejected the view that the events in England between 1640 and 1660 constituted a revolution.

In the course of two question and answer sessions with BSix A Level students, John explained that the English Civil War was not comparable to the French and Russian Revolutions. It was, as contemporaries called it, a rebellion and it was about religion.

John went on to explain that England was unique in Europe for avoiding a civil war about religion in the late 16th century. What changed was that Charles I began to dictate how people should worship God, putting an to the religious tolerance of Elizabeth I. Charles was suspected of wanting to restore the Catholic Church. He had a Catholic wife and welcomed an ambassador from the Pope. This especially worried those who had acquired land from the Catholic Church and feared that Charles was plotting to take it back. These worries aroused passions which led to civil war.

John also discussed Oliver Cromwell about whom he is the world expert, having just edited 5 volumes of his complete speeches and letters. John explained that,as a devout Catholic, he had little empathy with his Puritan view of God and salvation.

However, John described Cromwell as a great man. He added: "I've tried to live as a. Christian and I am interested in him trying to live his faith authentically." John was particularly struck by the fact that there was no difference between his public pronouncements and his private views.

BSix History teacher Lucy Capes, who organised the event, thanked John for his generosity. She was also thrilled with the confidence, interest and engagement of the students."John was so impressed with the quality of the questions and the level of debate", Lucy adds.