Blair Worden

A Very British Coup

1688: The First Modern Revolution

By

Yale University Press 647pp £28 order from our bookshop

If there has been a single transformative event in English political history since the Norman Conquest, it is the Revolution of 1688. Yet who now knows or cares about it? For some time it has barely been taught in our schools and not much taught in universities. In 1988 the tercentenary was met with public indifference. By contrast, anniversaries of the deaths of Charles I and Oliver Cromwell, the leading figures in the civil wars earlier in the century, excite public debate. The Puritan Revolution ended in crushing failure. The later Revolution succeeded, with fundamental and permanent consequences. In the years preceding it the Stuart monarchy seemed to have finally overcome the parliamentarian and Puritan dissent that had convulsed politics and society since the 1640s. In 1684 Charles II, with a tide of Tory and Anglican sentiment behind him, was able simply to ignore his legal obligation to call a parliament. In 1685 James II succeeded him, to national acclamation. A prophet of the constitutional future of England would have predicted the triumph of absolute monarchy, on the French model of the Stuarts’ ally Louis XIV. Instead James fled in 1688 from the invading army of his Dutch son-in-law William of Orange, who was installed as a parliamentary monarch. Since 1689 a parliament has met every year. The eighteenth century told itself that the Revolution had introduced a ‘new era’ that had confined the tyranny and instability of Stuart rule to the past and opened the way to ‘light and liberty’. In the mid-nineteenth century that claim was endorsed by perhaps the most popular work of sophisticated political history ever published, Macaulay’s The History of England from the Accession of James the Second.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • What a charming, candid blogpost from one of our dear contributing editors. ,
    • RT : The first guess from one of my 1st graders was “death” and such an awed, somber, reflective hush fell over the clas… ,
    • Merry Christmas from Literary Review! Hope your stockings were laden with books, and the tree bending under the weight of further books....,
    • Last minute Christmas gift required? We're offering discounts on all our subscriptions (20% no less!) with the cod… ,
    • In this issue's 'Silenced Voices', Lucy Popescu writes of Thailand's restrictive lese-majesty laws and their latest… ,
    • "Gunn was a disciple of the American formalist Yvor Winters, but Winters’s poetry could never give off such a scent… ,
    • Christmas gift hunting? Why not give the gift of being even better read? We're offering discounts on all our subscr… ,