[Milton-L] concerning Christopher Hill

William Simpson wilspon at earthlink.net
Sat Nov 17 14:45:18 EST 2007


    Last Friday, 11-16-07, Alan Rudrum wrote in these pages,

    "Christopher Hill as an historian was rather like Bush and Blair as
politicians. . . .
    That is, he was wont to massage the evidence to fit his political
biases; and his book
    on Milton and the Bible is a mess.  I understand that he was almost
certainly a Soviet
    agent; the English at that period produced quite a colorful group of
traitors."

    Those sentences contain rancid trash and innuendo thrown at a quite
gifted teacher and colleague of many of us.  I would expect to hear them on
the Rush Limbaugh radio show, but they are insulting to anyone who reads,
discusses and tries to measure the the writings of Milton and their public
effect.

    Christopher Hill was a sharply critical Marxist, a member of the
Communist Party Historians Group, and resigned from the Party after the
Soviet invasion of Hungary, 1956.  He served in the British army and
intelligence service for five years during World War II, and lived in the
Soviet Union for one year.  Like E. J. Hobsbawm he was perhaps the strongest
of the British radical historians who pioneered in working class history,
but unlike most other radical academics he was elected Master of Balliol
College from 1965-1978.  I have never read any allegation or heard even an
inferential hint that he was a Soviet spy or a traitor to his country; the
people at Oxford University seem not have to regarded him with any such
suspicion.

    Those of us who read material about the 17th Century can compare and
evaluate his 25 or so books, and the material in Past and Present, in
relation to Professor Rudrum's writings.  I concur that Hill's book on the
Milton and the Bible is not his best work.  But concerning his morals and
politics, Mr. Rudrum should now put up some persuasive evidence, or shut up:
whence comes your understanding that he was almost certainly a Soviet agent?
How is Hill the historian like Bush the politician?

    Bill Simpson





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