The World Turned Upside Down

Radical Ideas During the English Revolution

Christopher Hill

Introduced by Bernard Capp

Historian Christopher Hill examines the fascinating radical groups that grew up around the English Civil War, and the roots of a revolution that never happened.


The World Turned Upside Down is a comprehensive account of the social and religious upheaval caused by the English Civil War in the 1640s and 1650s. Much of the old order had been swept away or transformed, and into this volatile atmosphere of change came various radical groups looking to remake their country. In this fascinating book, Hill looks not at the revolution that happened, but at the remarkable revolution that could have been.

History has to be rewritten every generation, because although the past does not change the present does; each generation asks new questions of the past, and finds new areas of sympathy as it re-lives different aspects of the experiences of its predecessors.

Production Details

Bound in blocked cloth

Set in Baskerville

464 pages

Frontispiece and 24 pages of colour and black & white plates

Plain slipcase 

˝ x 6¼˝

‘One of the finest historians of the present age’

Hill examines the beliefs and methods of various revolutionary groups, from the Ranters, who rejected obedience and believed that God was within everyone, to the Diggers, who called for a communal ownership of land, establishing a settlement called George Hill in Surrey. Together these groups represented a significant challenge to the dominant ideology and the institutions upholding it.

As acclaimed historian Bernard Capp writes in his introduction, Hill encourages the reader to be ‘moved by their passionate idealism, their courage in challenging almost every traditional assumption’. 

‘This book will outlive our time and will stand as a notable monument to the man, the committed radical scholar, and one of the finest historians of the present age’

  1. Time Literary Supplement 

Of the 24 pages of black & white and colour images in this first illustrated edition, many feature pieces from revolutionary pamphlets, including the front page of the tract that inspired the title of this book, depicting an England where all the rules have been broken: a horse pushes a cart, fish fly through the sky and a man wears his boots on his hands.

About Christopher Hill

Christopher Hill (1912–2003), a renowned historian and distinguished scholar of 17th-century England, was most associated with Balliol College, Oxford. Hill began in 1931, as an undergraduate reading modern history, and in 1958 became a lecturer in 16th- and 17th-century history. From 1965 until his retirement in 1978, he was the Master of Balliol College. As a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and of the British Academy, he received multiple honorary degrees from British universities.  

‘Brilliant ... he depicts with marvellous erudition and sympathy the profound rationality of the Cromwellian “underground”’

  1. David Caute

Among many of his notable studies of 17th-century English history, Hill’s key publications include Puritanism and Revolution (1958), The Century of Revolution, 1603–1714 (1961), Intellectual Origins of the English Revolution (1965), The Reformation to Industrial Revolution (1967), God’s Englishman: Oliver Cromwell and the English Revolution (1970, The Folio Society, 2013) and Antichrist in Seventeenth-Century England (1971).

About Bernard Capp

Educated at Pembroke College, Oxford, Bernard Capp is currently an Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Warwick and has been at the university since 1968. A Fellow of the British Academy since 2005, Capp is the author of numerous articles and six books: The Fifth Monarchy Men (1972), Astrology and the Popular Press: English Almanacs, 1500–1800 (1979), Cromwell’s Navy: The Fleet and the English Revolution (1989), The World of John Taylor the Water-Poet (1994), When Gossips Meet: Women, the Family and Neighbourhood in Early Modern England (2003) and England’s Culture Wars: Puritan Reformation and its Enemies in the Interregnum, 1649–1660 (2012).