A fresh, exciting history of seventeenth-century England, a time of revolution when society was on fire and simultaneously forging the modern world

The seventeenth century was a revolutionary age for the English. It started as they suddenly found themselves ruled by a Scotsman, and it ended in the shadow of an invasion by the Dutch. Under James I, England suffered terrorism and witch panics. Under his son Charles, state and society collapsed into civil war, to be followed by an army coup and regicide. For a short time—for the only time in history—England was a republic. There were bitter struggles over faith and Parliament asserted itself like never before. There were no boundaries to politics. In fiery, plague-ridden London, in coffee shops and alehouses, new ideas were forged that were angry, populist, and almost impossible for monarchs to control.

But the story of this century is less well known than it should be. Myths have grown around key figures. People may know about the Gunpowder Plot and the Great Fire of London, but the Civil War is a half-remembered mystery to many. And yet the seventeenth century has never seemed more relevant. The British constitution is once again being bent and contorted, and there is a clash of ideologies reminiscent of when Roundhead fought Cavalier.

The Blazing World is the story of this strange, twisting, fascinating century. It shows a society in sparkling detail. It was a new world of wealth, creativity, and daring curiosity, but also of greed, pugnacious arrogance, and colonial violence.
The Blazing World tells the story of that crucible era when Englishmen began to think. About God and government, how to limit the monarchy and how ‘the poorest he’ (if not the poorest she) might share in some kind of democracy. Jonathan Healey explains Revolutionary England with great insight and wit, and an objectivity usually lacking in histories written with an inclination towards one side or the other. The book helps us to understand how and why, 400 years ago, Englishmen came to develop political and religious beliefs for which they were prepared to die and would eventually amalgamate in a way which set Britain (and, ideologically) America on a path to greatness.” —Geoffrey Robertson KC, author of The Tyrannicide Brief

“Healey, a professor of social history at Oxford, offers an ambitious narrative stuffed with engaging detail about the social and political developments that led to the overthrow of the Stuart monarchy, restoration, and shift to a constitutional monarchy following the Glorious Revolution of 1688. . . .  In addition to his keen attention to the lives of ordinary citizens, the author includes portraits of many of the important thinkers and visionaries of the time. . . . ‘The political world we live in today, with regular parliaments and elections, ideologically defined parties [and] a vibrant press . . . was born in the seventeenth century,’ writes Healey. ‘For this . . . the story told here remains fascinating and vital to this day.’ Most readers will agree. An educative history and fresh civics lesson for a new generation.”Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“A colourful history of the Stuart age. . . . This lively and mischievous book guides us through a dangerous revolutionary century. . . . There’s a reticence about taking on such a complex and turbulent period, but the rewards, as The Blazing World manifestly demonstrates, are very great. . . . This is a wonderful book, exhaustively researched, vigorously argued and teeming with the furious joy of 17th-century life.” —Jessie Childs, The Times
“The tempo never slackens in this erudite book.” The Economist

“Healey’s prose is precise but colloquial. He presents complex arguments, but delivers them in a laid back, often jocular manner. . . .  He tackles big subjects—religious dissent, the legal system—but hitches them to piquant stories about individuals previously unknown to history. . . . Events were tumultuous, but Healey persuasively shows us that thoughts were as thrilling and sometimes as wild. . . . Compendious and lucid, The Blazing World is an engaging addition to the historical literature on period.” —Lucy Hughes-Hallett, Spectator

“In his wide-ranging new history of revolutionary England, Jonathan Healey has given us a masterly account of a period that urgently needs to be reclaimed and recognised for its importance and interest. . . . Perhaps the greatest strength of Jonathan Healey’s book is how much it reveals of the lives and interests of those whom their contemporaries were pleased to describe as ‘the middling sort’. During the seventeenth century their voices were being raised—and heard—more vociferously and eloquently as the years went by. He is also very good on the role of women in society. . . . Painstakingly researched and elegantly written, The Blazing World is that rare achievement—a window into the past that is at once profoundly different and yet startlingly familiar.” —Dr Linda Porter, Writing Desk

“The English Civil War that beheaded King Charles I in 1649 and the Glorious Revolution that kicked his son James II out of England in 1688 were epochal events that birthed religious freedom and democratic accountability, according to this sweeping study. . . . Healey’s elegant narrative provides a sure guide through the century’s labyrinthine political intrigues while analyzing deeper social dynamics that he crystallizes in dramatic scenes of hierarchies being suddenly upended. . . .  The result is a bracing history of a time and place that created the modern world.” Publishers Weekly

“Vast yet intimate, scholarly yet accessible, this is narrative history at its best. Jonathan Healey’s The Blazing World blazes indeed: a huge achievement.” —Miranda Malins, novelist, author of The Puritan Princess

“The 17th century was the most dramatic and consequential in British history, the period during which the modern world was formed, and Jonathan Healey is as assured a guide to its twists and turns, its tragedies and triumphs as one could wish for. The Blazing World is a triumph of scholarship and concision.” —Paul Lay, historian, author of Providence Lost.
“Here a familiar and very important story is told with exceptional clarity and vigour, and plenty of very unfamiliar anecdotes and characters, drawn from all over the nation and all of Stuart society” —Ronald Hutton, author of Pagan Britain and The Making of Oliver Cromwell

“An erudite but readable history of a remarkable century. Contemporary voices, unearthed from the archive, convey the texture of the times and bring events to life.” —Dr. Margarette Lincoln, Visiting Researcher at the University of Portsmouth and Curator Emeritus at the National Maritime Museum