Durston, Christopher

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Durston, Christopher

PERSONAL: Male. Education: University of Oxford, B.A. (honors), 1972; University of Reading, Ph.D., 1977.

ADDRESSES: Office—School of Humanities, University of Plymouth, Room 2, 4 Endsleigh Pl., Drake Circus, Plymouth, Devon PL4 8AA, England. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: School of Humanities, University of Plymouth, Plymouth, Devon, England, senior lecturer in history. University College Chester, Chester, England, external examiner for history B.A. program; Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, institutional auditor.

MEMBER: Royal Historical Society (fellow), Higher Education Academy (fellow).


The Family in the English Revolution, Basil Blackwell (New York, NY), 1989.

Princes, Pastors, and People: The Church and Religion in England, 1529–1689, Routledge (New York, NY), 1991, second edition (with Susan Doran), 2003.

(Editor, with Jacqueline Eales, and contributor) The Culture of English Puritanism: 1560–1700 (essays), St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1996.

(With Barry Coward) The English Revolution: An Advanced Sourcebook, John Murray (London, England), 1997.

Cromwell's Major-Generals: Godly Government during the English Revolution, Manchester University Press (New York, NY), 2001.

Contributor to books by others and to journals, including Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Southern History, Berkshire Archaeological Journal, History, History Today, History Workshop Journal, Historical Journal, Seventeenth Century, and English Historical Review.


James I, Routledge (New York, NY), 1993.

Charles I, Routledge (New York, NY), 1998.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Coeditor, with Judith Maltby, of a collection of articles on religion in revolutionary England, for Manchester University Press, 2006; Reform, Revolution and Reaction: Religious Change in the English Parishes, 1620–1670, for Ashgate.

SIDELIGHTS: Professor of English history Christopher Durston is the author of many volumes that reflect his interests and the subjects he teaches, including his first, The Family in the English Revolution, a study of the ways in which the English family survived the turmoil of the years from 1640 to 1660. Durston considers how various aspects of family life changed, including marriage itself, the status of women, the relationship between children and their parents, and religious tradition. He draws on letters, pamphlets, and diaries in concluding that the family survived quite well, overcoming differences in ideology and politics and staying strong in spite of the many factors that might have weakened it. Martin Ingram wrote in English Historical Review that "while giving due weight to the disasters and difficulties of the period, he [Durston] concludes that traditional forms were remarkably resilient and that for some people the misfortunes of war served to strengthen conjugal and cross-generational ties and to highlight the value of home comforts."

Princes, Pastors, and People: The Church and Religion in England, 1529–1689, written with Susan Doran, explains in nine chapters the revisionist view of the English Reformation and covers such topics as the clergy and laity, dissent, society and religious orders, church structure, theology, and the churches, both in England and abroad. History Today contributor Barry Coward felt that undergraduate students, teachers, and others interested in early modern English history "will find their book a boon in helping to make sense of topics that historical controversies have made very unclear." Theological Studies critic Herbert J. Ryan felt that "the six-page Conclusion brilliantly summarizes the nine themes."

Durston has written short volumes for the "Lancaster Pamphlet" series, including James I and Charles I. The former is a study of the English monarch and an interpretation of its analysis by historians. Durston notes James's liberal spending and other commonly held views of the Scottish-born ruler, "but," said Susanne Collier in Seventeenth-Century News, "he is unusual in clarifying the effects of these shortcomings on James's image. He is most revisionist in reevaluating the virtues of James's pacific foreign policy record, arguing that James maintained as good a working relationship with Parliament as Elizabeth had done." Durston also praises James's balancing of religious issues between the Scottish and English churches and the Calvinists and Arminians. Charles I, about the reign of James's son, similarly a study intended for undergraduate-level students, was called "a beautifully written, well-judged and completely persuasive survey" by History reviewer Tom Weber.

Durston is the editor, with Jacqueline Eales, of The Culture of English Puritanism: 1560–1700, which begins with their lengthy introduction. Peter Marshall wrote in the English Historical Review that "their conclusion that 'puritanism' subsisted in a 'common spiritual outlook' rather than any definable theological or political position is a refreshingly common-sense approach to the suspicion in some quarters that no such thing as puritanism ever existed." Individual contributors include John Spurr, Patrick Collinson, Martin Ingram, Margaret Aston, Peter Lake, Ralph Houlbrooke, and the editors themselves. Durton's essay studies the puritan effort to establish a new religious calendar, to change the religious ceremonies practiced in association with birth, marriage, and death, and effort to bring about moral change. Diane Willen said in Sixteenth Century Journal that "space does not allow justice to the richness of individual essays." Together, the essays treat various aspects of puritanism, including "the privileged role accorded to the individual conscience." The editors note that "puritans could be moderate, hierarchical, repressive and orthodox" and still be "divisive, extreme and heterodox," thereby creating a philosophy "both polarised and polarising." Coward called the collection "a first-rate introduction to seventeenth-century English Puritanism for those who have little previous knowledge of the subject."

Cromwell's Major-Generals: Godly Government during the English Revolution, is a study of that brief period in English history, in 1655, when the country was divided into twelve districts by Oliver Cromwell, who then appointed military commanders to oversee them. Cromwell did not require that they share their power with elected representatives, and he took extreme security measures following the Royalist uprising in March of the same year, instituting heavy taxes on supporters of the king in order to pay for them. Although some of the Puritan Major-Generals were less domineering than others, they all bore the responsibility of reforming as well as controlling the residents of their districts. Although much has been written of Puritan opposition to alcohol, sex, and other sins of the flesh, in fact, it was excess to which they objected, as noted by Durston. Men who congregated in an alehouse were more likely to conspire against the government, and vagabonds and vagrants were less likely to conform to acceptable standards of conduct. Consequently the Major-Generals closed alehouses and in other ways interfered with potential problems, but, for the most part, they affected little change on the lives of their subjects. Their reign lasted less than a year, weakened by their attempted regulation of morals and government and because they had usurped the roles of traditional governments, sheriffs, and justices of the peace.

Derek Hirsk wrote in the Journal of Modern History that the volume is a "careful study of the daunting labors of these men in their counties—imposing a penal 'decimation' tax on unreconstructed royalists, organizing a new militia, purging unfit clergy and local magistrates, spearheading the drive to moral reformation, managing election campaigns…. Durston certainly makes clear the practical constraints on authoritarian rule and the limits of zeal as a political agenda as he chronicles fiscal and political crisis. Nevertheless, the authoritarianism and the zeal are undeniable; they were the inexorable consequences of the sense … that God's people were God's instruments."

Albion reviewer Paul Pinckney felt that "Durston is to be congratulated on not just finishing a book on the Major-Generals but also for writing a very good one…. Although this reviewer has studied the Major-Generals for decades, he learned quite a lot about them. It speaks volumes about the author's energy and diligence to have uncovered so much interesting information and to have organized his findings and thoughts in such an illuminating way."



Albion, spring, 2003, Paul Pinckney, review of Cromwell's Major-Generals: Godly Government during the English Revolution, p. 121.

Choice, December, 1989, C. Carlton, review of The Family in the English Revolution, p. 680; January, 2002, M. C. Noonkester, review of Cromwell's Major-Generals, p. 951.

Clio, spring, 2003, R. C. Richardson, review of Cromwell's Major-Generals, p. 331.

English Historical Review, July, 1992, Martin Ingram, review of The Family in the English Revolution, p. 722; June, 1998, Peter Marshall, review of The Culture of English Puritanism: 1560–1700, p. 729.

History, July, 1997, Kristen Robinson, review of James I, pp. 497-498; July, 1999, Tom Webster, review of Charles I, pp. 529-530.

History Today, August, 1989, Jeremy Boulton, review of The Family in the English Revolution, pp. 51-52; August, 1993, Barry Coward, review of Princes, Pastors, and People: The Church and Religion in England, 1529–1689, p. 60; December, 1996, Jeremy Gregory, review of James I, p. 56; July, 1997, Barry Coward, review of The Culture of English Puritanism, pp. 59-60; July, 2002, Ivan Roots, review of Cromwell's Major-Generals, p. 61.

Journal of Ecclesiastical History, January, 1999, Christopher Haigh, review of The Culture of English Puritanism, p. 155; January, 2003, Stephen K. Roberts, review of Cromwell's Major-Generals, p. 176.

Journal of Modern History, September, 1988, Margo Todd, review of The Culture of English Puritanism, p. 673; June, 2004, Derek Hirsk, review of Cromwell's Major-Generals, p. 430.

London Review of Books, February 7, 2002, Blair Worden, review of Cromwell's Major-Generals, pp. 21-22.

Seventeenth-Century News, spring, 1995, Susanne Collier, review of James I, p. 30.

Sixteenth Century Journal, summer, 1993, Scott H. Hendrix, review of The Family in the English Revolution, pp. 463-464; summer, 1997, Diane Willen, review of The Culture of English Puritanism, pp. 651-652.

Theological Studies, September, 1992, Herbert J. Ryan, review of Princes, Pastors, and People, p. 594.

Times Higher Education Supplement, February 21, 1992, R. C. Richardson, review of Princes, Pastors, and People, p. 22.


University of Plymouth Web site, http://www.plymouth.ac.uk/ (May 7, 2005), "Christopher Durston."