David Underdown

David Underdown is a professor of history at Yale and Director of the Yale Centre for Parliamentary History. His most recent book is Revel, Riot and Rebellion.

Praising God

David Underdown, 10 June 1993

In a striking passage in his memoirs Richard Baxter recalls watching the battle of Langport as a young chaplain in the army of the Parliament. After some fierce fighting, panic suddenly set in among the Royalists on the opposite hill. Standing next to Baxter was the godly Major Thomas Harrison. As the Cavaliers broke and fled, Baxter heard him ‘with a loud voice break forth into the praises of God with fluent expressions, as if he had been in a rapture’.

Women on top

David Underdown, 14 September 1989

Sex, an eminent British historian observed a few years ago, is not an important subject for the historian. Plenty of historians had already proved him wrong, and they have continued to do so: Flandrin, Foucault, Laslett, Shorter, Stone – one could put together quite an impressive list. But most of their work has dealt primarily with sex as a set of relationships defined by the biological differences between men and women, rather than with gender, which involves the perception and social construction of those differences. And as Peter Burke points out in his foreword to this short but intriguing book, even historians of gender (and there are now a few of them around) have not made much of the subject of transvestism as it is explored by these two Dutch historians. Yet, as Burke also notes, we may be able to learn quite a lot about the history of a society from the way otherwise obscure people perceived and constructed, and sometimes even tried to change, their sexual identity.


David Underdown, 4 May 1989

We have been taught to think of the Tudor monarchs as having brought stability to England after the disorders of the 15th century. So they did, in a way. Yet between 1509 and 1640 there were more than three hundred riots in England, many of them occasioned by the enclosure of common land or the denial of customary rights of pasture. Some were large enough to be dignified by the names ‘rising’ or ‘rebellion’, as was the case in the Midlands in 1607; others were small and insignificant, a handful of obscure villagers levelling someone’s hedges and letting their cattle in. Some were led by prominent gentlemen, some by poor husbandmen; some by men, some by women, some by men dressed as women.

6/4 he won’t score 20

John Sturrock, 7 September 2000

In prelapsarian times, it was only ever a short step from the batting crease to the pulpit, as generations of cricketing vicars used the game that they played heartily, if not usually very well, on Saturday...

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Up and doing

Susan Brigden, 6 August 1992

This book charts a kind of revolution: the building of a new Jerusalem, ‘a city on a hill’, in Dorchester, Dorset, in the early 17th century. The story of a little country town,...

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Real Power

Conrad Russell, 7 August 1986

These books are both attempts, by oblique routes, to explain major events in English history: in one case the Civil War, and in the other the Reformation. That, however, is where the resemblance...

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