[Milton-L] concerning Christopher Hill

John Leonard jleonard at uwo.ca
Sat Nov 17 17:53:44 EST 2007

IBill Simpson suggests (below) that Alan Rudrum's comment that Christopher 
Hill "was almost certainly a Soviet agent" is "trash and innuendo," and Bill 
adds that he has "never read any allegation or heard even an inferential 
hint that he was a Soviet spy."  As a long time admirer of Christopher Hill 
(and I had the good fortune to meet him in 1985), I too would like to 
believe that the allegation of spying is "trash," but Alan Rudrum did not 
make this up off the top of his head, and his comment is free from 
"innuendo."  Alan's words are  perfectly clear.  I too distinctly recall 
these allegations surfacing very soon after Hill's death in 2003.  They 
emerged in British newspapers, including the Times and Guardian.  Here is a 
link, if anyone is interested (I found it via Google and am not endorsing 
any of the content)::


I have not pursued this line, and have no opinions as to the veracity of the 
allegations, but the allegations have been a matter of public record for 
nearly five years and did not begin with Alan Rudrum, whose reference to 
them (however just or unjust the allegations might be) is untainted by 

John Leonard

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "William Simpson" <wilspon at earthlink.net>
To: <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Sent: 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 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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