[Milton-L] concerning Christopher Hill

Jeffrey Shoulson jshoulson at miami.edu
Sat Nov 17 16:39:54 EST 2007

Thanks to Richard Strier, Hannibal Hamlin and William Simpson for  
their eloquent responses to Alan Rudrum's unfortunate attacks on  
Christopher Hill.
I had the good fortune to meet Professor Hill in the very early  
stages of my graduate work.  It was around the time of his Bunyan  
book and he was gracious enough to present some of that material to a  
group of students in an informal seminar on research methods in early  
modern studies.  I'll never forget how intellectually vital and  
curious he was, even at his advanced age, and how willing he was to  
entertain different perspectives.  Would that we might all find  
ourselves at such a point in our careers so engaged and aware of the  
most current trends in scholarship.
One doesn't have to agree with everything the man has written in his  
prolific and influential career to acknowledges his bona fides as a  
scholar.  I can think of very little more incongruous than comparing  
Hill to W.  The couldn't be more unlike.

Jeffrey S. Shoulson, Ph. D.
Associate Professor of English and Judaic Studies
University of Miami
PO Box 248145
Coral Gables, FL 33124-4632

(o) 305-284-5596
(f) 305-284-5635

jshoulson at miami.edu

On Nov 17, 2007, at 3:42 PM, HANNIBAL HAMLIN wrote:

> I'm sure most of us agree that the ad hominem charges against  
> Christopher Hill with which William Simpson takes issue offend the  
> norms of civility we expect on a scholarly list (even apart from  
> the matter of their veracity).
> Like Richard Strier, I too find the Hill-bashing odd.  I haven't  
> read anything like his complete works (how many on this list can  
> claim this?), but his The English Bible and the Seventeenth-Century  
> Revolution was extremely valuable to me, and The World Turned  
> Upside Down was one of my most exciting graduate school reading  
> experiences.  Furthermore, though he may not have been the best  
> literary critic, I still find some of his thoughts on Milton  
> suggestive (I for one, am unconvinced we should dismiss parallels  
> between Milton and his [PL] Satan).
> Hannibal
> Hannibal Hamlin
> Associate Professor of English
> The Ohio State University
> Book Review Editor and Associate Editor, Reformation
> Mailing Address (2007-2009):
> The Folger Shakespeare Library
> 201 East Capitol Street SE
> Washington, DC 20003
> Permanent Address:
> Department of English
> The Ohio State University
> 421 Denney Hall, 164 W. 17th Avenue
> Columbus, OH 43210-1340
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: William Simpson <wilspon at earthlink.net>
> Date: Saturday, November 17, 2007 2:45 pm
> Subject: [Milton-L] concerning Christopher Hill
>>    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
>> almostcertainly 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
>> quitegifted 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
>> strongestof the British radical historians who pioneered in
>> working class history,
>> but unlike most other radical academics he was elected Master of
>> BalliolCollege 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
>> suchsuspicion.
>>    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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