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Marshall, Peter 1946- (Peter H. Marshall)

Marshall, Peter 1946- (Peter H. Marshall)

PERSONAL:

Born August 23, 1946, in Bognor Regis, England; son of William Cyril (a horse trainer) and Vera Ida Marshall; married Jenny Therese Zobel (a radio broadcaster); children: Emily, Dylan. Education: University of London, England, B.A., 1970; University of Sussex, M.A., 1971, Ph.D., 1977.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Devon, England. Office—A.M. Heath and Company Ltd, 6 Warwick Ct, London WC1R 5DJ, England.

CAREER:

Writer, philosopher, poet, and historian. College St. Michel, Dakar, Senegal, West Africa, English teacher, 1966-67; Extramural Department, University of London, England, tutor in philosophy and literature, 1974-80; Extramural Department, University College of North Wales, tutor in philosophy, 1981-90. Served as a cadet-purser on the P & O/Orient Line, British Merchant Navy, 1964-66. Also works as a broadcaster, has appeared on radio and television, including the History Channel.

WRITINGS:

William Godwin, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1984.

Journey through Tanzania, photographs by Mohamed Amin and Duncan Willetts, Bodley Head (London, England), 1984.

Into Cuba, photographs by Barry Lewis, Alfred Van der Marck Editions (New York, NY), 1985.

(Editor and author of introduction) The Anarchist Writings of William Godwin, Freedom Press (London, England), 1986.

Cuba Libre, Faber & Faber (Boston, MA), 1987.

(Editor and author of introduction) William Godwin, Damon and Delia, Zena (Croesor, Wales), 1988.

William Blake: Visionary Anarchrist, Freedom Press (London, England), 1988.

Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1991.

Nature's Web: An Exploration of Ecological Thinking, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1992, published as Nature's Web: Rethinking Our Place on Earth, Paragon House (New York, NY), 1994.

Journey through Maldives, photographs by Mohamed Amin and Duncan Willetts, Camerapix Publishers International (Nairobi, Kenya), 1992.

Around Africa: From the Pillars of Hercules to the Strait of Gibraltar, Simon & Schuster (London, England), 1994.

Celtic Gold: A Voyage around Ireland, Sinclair Stevenson (London, England), 1997.

Riding the Wind: A New Philosophy for a New Era, Cassell (New York, NY), 1998.

The Philosopher's Stone: A Quest for the Secrets of Alchemy, Macmillan (London, England), 2004.

World Astrology: The Astrologer's Quest to Understand the Human Character, Macmillan (London, England), 2004.

Europe's Lost Civilization: Uncovering the Mysteries of the Megaliths, Headline (London, England), 2004.

The Magic Circle of Rudolf II: Alchemy and Astrology in Renaissance Prague, Walker & Co. (New York, NY), 2006, published as The Theatre of the World: Alchemy, Astrology and Magic in Renaissance Prague, Harvill Secker (London, England), 2006, published as The Mercurial Emperor: The Magic Circle of Rudolf II in Renaissance Prague, Primlico (London, England), 2007.

Contributor of articles and book reviews to periodicals, including Observer, Guardian, New Statesman, Times Literary Supplement, and Independent.

SIDELIGHTS:

British writer Peter Marshall is noted for his biography of the radical eighteenth-century British philosopher William Godwin. Marshall's strong desire to keep the ideas of England's more famous political theorists accessible to the public has also prompted him to edit several works, including Godwin's Damon and Delia and The Anarchist Writings of William Godwin, for the modern reader.

Marshall's biographical portrait of Godwin recounts events in the philosopher's life and provides a detailed summary of all work published by Godwin over the course of his political career. William Godwin includes detailed explications of Godwin's more notable novels and of Godwin's biography of British poet and author Geoffrey Chaucer. In addition, Marshall provides his readers with an examination of Godwin's most significant philosophical work, An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice. Although finding Marshall's biography somewhat excessive in its thoroughness, New York Times Book Review contributor David Bromwich maintained that William Godwin "is interesting. It brings back a thinker who was at once visionary and confident, and who had the good fortune to write when utopian ideas did not seem utopian."

More recently, Marshall has broadened his study to include not only Godwin but other radical political theorists. Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism, published in 1991, includes Godwin's vision of an anarchist society as one of many political theories by such members of the anarchist school as Mikhail Bakunin, Gabriel de Foigny, Wilhelm von Humboldt, and Ayn Rand. The volume was praised by reviewers for the breadth of its study and Marshall's scholarly approach. James Joll, writing in the Times Literary Supplement, noted that "Peter Marshall's wide survey comes at the right moment when so many other ideologies have collapsed, and his concluding discussion of anarchism in relation to world ecological problems … suggests that, for all its past failures, anarchism in some form or another still provides suggestions as to how a different and better society might be organized."

Marshall turns his attention to a history of the environmental movement with his book Nature's Web: Rethinking Our Place on Earth. Focusing on the intellectual roots of the movement, the author traces its history from ancient religions and philosophies to the modern world of science and ethics. In the process, he presents a new philosophy of nature meant to direct both social actions and moral values; he also summarizes various philosophies concerning the environment and Earth, from Taoism and Buddhism to Christianity and North American Indian philosophies. In addition, Marshall traces humanity's evolution in its approach to the natural world—from a view of Earth as a sacred place to one of human dominance and exploitation and then back to a more reverential and holistic approach to interacting with the natural world. "Marshall's survey is a useful philosophy primer, since he ably condenses the demanding work of such influential thinkers as Descartes, Spinoza, Locke, Hegel, and Darwin," wrote Donna Seaman in Booklist. A Publishers Weekly contributor called Nature's Web a "compelling search for a new environmental ethic."

The author once again formulates a new philosophical outlook towards life with his book Riding the Wind: A New Philosophy for a New Era. Referring to his new philosophy as "liberation ecology," the author presents a more spiritual outlook toward the natural order of the world and nature itself. Decrying many aspects of Western culture, the author points to cultures from around the world, such as the life of the Kalahari tribesmen, as examples of how humanity can live in better harmony with nature. A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that the author's "remedy is thoughtful and well developed."

In his 2006 book, The Magic Circle of Rudolf II: Alchemy and Astrology in Renaissance Prague, published in England as The Theatre of the World: Alchemy, Astrology and Magic in Renaissance Prague, the author relates the story of one of history's most interesting characters. Although Rudolf II was a Habsburg heir, Holy Roman Emperor, and king of Hungary and Germany, he is largely an unknown figure in history. In his book, the author recounts Rudolf's life and his rule from 1576 to 1612, during which time he gathered together an eclectic collection of mathematicians, alchemists, artists, philosophers, and astronomers to visit his royal court. Marshall delves into an early time in the future ruler's life when he was a teenager and spent time at the court of Phillip II of Spain, who was his uncle. There, Rudolf witnessed the cruelties of the Inquisition, leading Rudolf to reject Catholicism and intolerance in general. When he founded his court in Prague, Rudolf was determined to make it a bastion of tolerance in counterpoint to most of Europe's sectarian strife. In his book, Marshall describes how Rudolf strove to understand both the secrets of nature and the meaning of life by bringing to his court at different times people such as Danish Astronmer Tycho Brahe, German mathematician Johannes Kepler, and many others.

A Kirkus Reviews contributor called The Magic Circle of Rudolf II "a revelatory biography, particularly for Americans whose history classes treat Eastern Europe as the far side of the world." Brad Hooper, writing in Booklist, commented that the author uses "considerable yet arresting detail … [to provide] concrete evidence of the eccentricity—and cultural significance—of this odd royal figure."

Marshall told CA: "I consider Demanding the Impossible and Nature's Web to be my most important and influential books as they are concerned with expanding freedom and caring for the planet. My personal favorite is Riding the Wind, as it combines both aspects and is a more direct statement of my own thinking. All my books have been a pleasure to write, but in recent times I particularly enjoyed traveling and researching for The Philosopher's Stone: A Quest for the Secrets of Alchemy and Europe's Lost Civilization: Uncovering the Mysteries of the Megaliths."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, July, 1994, Donna Seaman, review of Nature's Web: Rethinking Our Place on Earth, p. 1906; June 1, 2006, Brad Hooper, review of The Magic Circle of Rudolf II: Alchemy and Astrology in Renaissance Prague, p. 28.

Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2006, review of The Magic Circle of Rudolf II, p. 560.

Library Journal, February 1, 1999, Leslie Armour, review of Riding the Wind: A New Philosophy for a New Era, p. 92; May 15, 2006, David Keymer, review of The Magic Circle of Rudolf II, p. 112.

New York Times Book Review, October 21, 1984, David Bromwich, review of "William Godwin: Philosopher, Novelist, Revolutionary," pp. 24-25.

Publishers Weekly, March 28, 1994, review of Nature's Web, p. 78; December 21, 1998, review of Riding the Wind, p. 44; May 1, 2006, review of The Magic Circle of Rudolf II, p. 48.

Times Literary Supplement, January 10, 1992, James Joll, review of Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism, pp. 3-4.

ONLINE

Peter Marshall Home Page,http://www.petermarshall.net (February 7, 2008).

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