Cover: Permanent Revolution: The Reformation and the Illiberal Roots of Liberalism, from Harvard University PressCover: Permanent Revolution in HARDCOVER

Permanent Revolution

The Reformation and the Illiberal Roots of Liberalism

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Product Details


$35.00 • £28.95 • €31.50

ISBN 9780674987135

Publication Date: 02/18/2019


464 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

1 table

Belknap Press


As Simpson’s book ably demonstrates, by the end of the 17th century mainstream Protestantism had indeed become one of the champions of liberalism and a root of modernity… The scope of Simpson’s analysis is impressive. He moves well beyond the literary realm to provide deft accounts of historical developments. His sections on the divisions within Elizabethan Protestantism are particularly instructive… A major achievement.—Jonathan Wright, The Catholic Herald

A breathtaking tour de force of literary and historical analysis that both confirms the basic pedigree—liberalism stems from the Reformation—and contradicts it in the novel twist that liberalism is the misbegotten and unforeseen child of evangelical religion, born precisely in order to discipline and contain it… An exciting, even compelling read, and in its breadth and argumentative brilliance will surely continue to engage scholars in the field for a long time to come.—Jeremy Morris, American Historical Review

An important and erudite book from a major scholar, one that takes issue in a critically self-conscious fashion with the way historical periods have been conventionally formulated, while arguing that we come to understand the cultural history of liberalism more clearly by recognizing its continuities with the religious legacies of medieval culture.—Paul Giles, Australian Book Review

Erudite and fascinating. I learned from every page, not only about early modernity but about our own liberal predicament.—Ethan H. Shagan, Journal of Ecclesiastical History

One of the best books I have ever read… Will provoke readers to contemplate the terms of their own faiths (or absence thereof), while revealing how various histories, when more fully understood, animate the world we live in today… What a monument (though a homely and familiar one) of humanist scholarship and cultural criticism… Magnificent.—Michael Calabrese, Medieval Review

This is ultimately a hopeful book, and those seeking liberalism’s death knell or swan song should look elsewhere… This fresh view of the Reformation will—if Simpson has put his pieces together in the right order, and I think he has—liberate us…from historical narratives that have prevailed in the West for over five hundred years.—Finnegan Schick, New Criterion

A valuable contribution to describing the birth of Liberalism through the strife of the Reformation… Simpson has written a real Gesamtkunstwerk.—Andrea Di Carlo, Reformation

Substantial and challenging… It is impossible to encapsulate here just how compelling and relevant this book is for our troubled times as Simpson shows that religious liberty was born through the pain of a post-Reformation world.—Patti Mckenna-Jones, Socialist Review

A subtle and helpful corrective to ahistorical Whiggish accounts of how we got here, and one that has significant, if largely unexplored, implications for the present.—Nick Spencer, The Spectator

A provocative study of the English Reformation’s transformation of literature, theology, and politics… Masterful.Choice

Simpson has given us a landmark literary history of the Reformation, as well as a forgotten history of our liberties. A rare feat of scholarship and an exhilarating read.—Sarah Beckwith, author of Shakespeare and the Grammar of Forgiveness

An utterly gripping and monumental book, addressing the seventeenth-century revolutions and their implications for the Enlightenment and liberal modernity. This is a grand narrative, with extraordinary scope and range. Permanent Revolution is an intense, exuberant engagement with the unintended outcomes of the Reformation.—David Aers, author of Beyond Reformation?

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