Dippel examines 17th Century revolutions and religion in latest book

Release Date: 4/30/2014

University of the Ozarks Professor of Political Science Dr. Stewart Dippel recently completed his third book, "The Fast Day Sermons before the Long Parliament (1640-1660): Their Role in Shaping Intellectual and Political Life in 17th Century England."

The academic volume is being published by The Edwin Mellen Press and should be available in June.

Considered a leading academic in 17th Century religious history, Dippel said his latest publication is intended for professional and graduate-level scholars of early modern religious history.

"In particular, I focus on England during the mid-17th Century," Dippel said. "My topic in general is the relationship between revolutions and religion and on the role of prophets and prophecies in such crises.  In particular I focus on the institutionalization of the prophetic office, especially with regards to the Long Parliament. The current academic literature indicates a lack of attention paid to this subject.  There has been a fair amount of discussion, as a consequence of revisionism's re-mapping of the causes of the troubles, with regards to religion's role in the run-up to Civil War and Revolution.  Little has been done, however, with regards to religion's role during the crisis itself. "

Dippel said that he initially expected that his research and writing would be focused on the radicals of the 1640s and 1650s.

"When I first started research, I anticipated that my focus would be on the various radical groups and their charismatic figures that emerged during the revolutionary crisis," he said. "I discovered that the real prophets, and to some degree charismatic leaders, were the more staid and middle-of-the-road, by comparison to say the Ranters and Diggers, Presbyterians and Independents.  Consequently, I concentrated on their message, especially as they enunciated it throughout the course of parliamentary fast day sermons during the 1640s.  The book became, then, a study of rather ordinary people whose religious convictions led them to preach and do extraordinary things."

The general thesis of the book, Dippel said, suggests that the English Civil Wars and Revolution can only be understood in terms of the relationship between religion and crisis.

"Religion within the context of cultural crisis may best be understood in terms of prophets and their prophecy," Dippel said. "In the mid-17th Century, England's prophets, who were ordinary preaching folk, developed an analogy between England's situation and that of Old Testament Israel.  Nobody, at day's end, listened to them, and so they failed."

Dippel said the idea for the scholarly book began when Mellen Press sent him a manuscript to evaluate a few years ago.

"It was the work of two sociologists who had written on the relationship between religion and revolutionary regime change in contemporary Poland and Iran," Dippel said. "My critique argued that the manuscript was as good as it went,  but that to write on the relationship between religion and revolution you needed to have a base-line paradigm, and the starting point for any such model must certainly be the English Revolution of 1640.  Mellen agreed and suggested to the authors that they write up an introductory chapter outlining such a model, and offered my good services so to do in case they declined.   They declined to write themselves, and declined my offer to write on their behalf.  Then, over the period of a month or so Mellen and I reached the mutual conclusion that I would write the study myself."

Dippel had some help from members of the Ozarks family in completing the book. Dr. David Strain, professor of English and humanities and who co-taught a course with Dippel on Milton and the English Revolution, read through the manuscript and made some significant suggestions. Also, 2013 graduate and one of Dippel's former students, Morgan O'Neil, helped proof-read the manuscript. O'Neil will begin graduate work next fall at Southern Illinois University.

"I guess you could say that it was a work of collaboration of sorts," Dippel said.

Dippel, who earned his Ph.D. from The Ohio State University, has taught at Ozarks since 1992. His has authored two other books: "The Sacralization of the World in the Seventeenth Century: The Experience of Holiness in Everyday Life," in 2009 and "The Professionalization of the English Church from 1560-1700: Ambassadors for Christ," in 1999.