Liberty against the Law

Liberty against the Law:Some Seventeenth-Century Controversies

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A classic study of popular resistance to the momentous changes of seventeenth-century England

In this, the last book published during his lifetime, renowned historian of the English Revolution Christopher Hill uses the literary culture of the seventeenth century to explore the immense social changes of the period as well as the expressions of liberty, the law and the hero-worship of the outlaw defiance. As well as chapters on gypsies and vagabonds, Hill analyzes class, religion and the shift away from the importance of the church after the Reformation. Liberty against the Law is a late classic of Hill’s work and essential reading for anyone interested in the history and politics of the seventeenth-century.


  • Barely twenty per cent of the population, Hill estimates, could have been content with the law, and he celebrates the energetic dissenters, like poachers, highwaymen, smugglers, pirates — and the antinomians, who claimed sexual liberty on the creative grounds that the godly were exempt from moral law

    Keith ThomasGuardian
  • He deconstructs what was until recently the received version of English history, and leaves it tattered ... In celebrations of the vagabond life, in Robin Hood ballads and the romances of piracy, in meditations on the noble savage, and especially in the poems of John Clare, Hill finds a culture of dissent from the grim canon of progress

    Derek HirstTimes Literary Supplement