Christopher Hill (historian)

British historian

John Edward Christopher Hill (6 February 1912 – 23 February 2003) was an English Marxist historian and academic, specialising in 17th-century English history. From 1965 to 1978, he was Master of Balliol College, Oxford University.



The World Turned Upside Down (1972)

  • Most men and women of the seventeenth century Britain still lived in a world of magic, in which God and the devil intervened daily, a world of witches, fairies, and charms. If they failed, the royal touch would cure scrofula.
    • Ch. 6

Quotes about Christopher Hill

  • Lesser historians, timid or inhibited, aimed at correctness; Hill had wider ends to serve. He has served that cause with more profound influence on his time than any of his peers. Among the English Marxist historians, that galaxy of talent from the 1960s, Hill was and is a prince of academe... Now that Marxism can no longer harm, the point is not to refute Hill but to appreciate him. Every scrap of his writing is to be treasured; every essay, every review overflows with historical skill. Every part of his work includes the whole. This collection of studies focuses on crime, and crime seen from the viewpoint of the ordinary man as social protest. This thesis is not new: its classic formulation was by E. P. Thompson 20 years ago. Nor am I more persuaded now than I was then: it strikes me as an Alice in Wonderland vision in which all the criminals are victims and all their victims become criminals. I am not persuaded that "the land-less" were "the law-less". Court records show that the poor are the chief victims of crime, however much Hill's literary sources romanticise criminals as Robin Hoods. Yet this hardly seems to matter beside the learning and deftness with which Hill makes his theme so fascinating.
    • J. C. D. Clark, 'High Hill', The Times (30 May 1996), p. 40
    • A review of Hill's Liberty Against the Law: Some 17th-Century Controversies