‘What Price Liberty?’ by Ben Wilson

'What Price Liberty? How Freedom Was Won And Is Being Lost' by Ben WilsonAn excellent new book by a fellow Cambridge historian was released this week. I reviewed it for The Spectator – you can read my thoughts here.

Wilson, as I wrote, has been accused of pandering to the Cameroons with his most overtly political book to date. Of course, he is doing no such thing, but his book reads as an intelligent historical case against Nu-Labour’s baleful neglect for traditional British rights and freedom.

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The Today programme (redux)

It was interesting to hear it reported twice on this morning’s Today programme that the group of Labour rebels mustering forces for a fatal attack on Gordon Brown have dubbed themselves members of ‘the peasants’ revolt’. In terms of sheer upheaval – ‘the world turned upside down’ – the analogy between the (literally) bloody summer of 1381 and the (metaphorically) bloody summer of 2009 seems less and less fanciful by the day.

Of course, what was notable about the 1381 revolt was that it was a genuine expression of popular anger, led in the most part by community leaders from the localities and aimed against the political classes as a whole. What we are seeing in parliament today is factional infighting as an incumbent political party tries to save itself from precisely that fate.

Indeed, there is an argument to say that Labour MPs claiming to be the inheritors of Wat Tyler are actually as crass as the bunkered Brownites. The MPs aiming to oust their leader are doing so in order to limit the damage done to their party when the country finally goes to the polls in a general election. In other words, they wish to dampen as far as possible the electorate’s inclination to wreak full revenge on the government – at the ballot box, rather than the chopping block.

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The Today programme

Last week I was invited to appear on the Today programme on Radio 4. It was huge fun to discuss the Peasants’ Revolt with Evan Davis and Prof. David Carpenter.

You can see a video of the interview here

And I wrote a piece about the revolt for the Today website. You can read it here

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A few new reviews etc

Many of the mainstream newspapers have now published reviews of ‘Summer of Blood’. Here’s a round-up.

The Telegraph

Tom Payne likened the events of June 1381 with the current political turmoil. He (or perhaps the kind folk on the Telegraph books desk) gave the book four stars out of five.

Choice cut: “To read this book, it’s a relief that the A2 and the A12 aren’t already blocked with yeomanry ready to lynch MPs for betraying Queen and country. “

Click here to read Tom Payne’s review.

The Sunday Times

John Guy was unsure about the role of women in the book and wanted more complexity in the explanation of the Peasants’ Revolt’s causes. Phooey. Still, it was a very prominent review and rather beautifully laid out.

Choice cut: “Jones paints a vivid portrait of Tyler…”

Yeah, let’s not worry about what comes after that ellipsis.

Click here to read John Guy’s review.

The Herald

A meaty review by Colin Waters under the headline ‘Rural rebels with a familiar war cry’ appeared in mid-May. I cannot presently locate it online, but if I find a link it will go up. It described ‘Summer of Blood’ as ‘pacy, direct and sensitive to the contradictions between what we know happened and what we have imagined over the centuries.’

Choice cut: “The Peasants’ Revolt could have been designed for the current fashion in historical studies for character-driven strong narratives.”

The Scotsman

The Scotsman ran a brief but natty review.

Choice cut: “This short, clear history of a long, hot summer is… an introduction to the unexpected complexity of the age.”

Click here to read the Scotsman review.

The rest

I’ll post some of the blog links to SOB, as well as a link to my slot on last week’s BBC Today programme and some recent articles I’ve written, later today. If you’ve spotted any reviews I might have missed, do please email and let me know

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Summer of Blood: What the critics say

“Combines zest and flair with acute historical intelligence. Bold. Surprising. Unputdownable.” David Starkey

“Fascinating… brilliantly researched and written with gusto. Just tremendously good.” Nicholas Coleridge, Managing Director, Condé Nast

“Jones has certainly livened up the Middle Ages with this first book. He serves his account hot, brave and reeking with gore for a wide readership.” Iain Finlayson, The Times

“A compelling new study.” Paul Lay, Editor, History Today

“A writer hailed as one of the brightest new talents in narrative history writing.” The Bookseller

“What a tale… English medieval history is enjoying a bit of a moment right now…” Kathryn Hughes, The Guardian

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