The far Left and the far Right have agreed about few things in English history, but one of them is the iniquity of the Revolution of 1688–9, which mainstream opinion credits with the emergence of parliamentary rule and of constitutional and personal liberties. The Right’s case has been straightforward: the Revolution overthrew the legitimate monarch. To the Left, from radical Whigs in the late seventeenth century to Tony Benn in the late twentieth, the Revolution has seemed a missed opportunity and a betrayal. It failed to make the executive properly accountable, and did nothing for the poor and oppressed. When the dust settled, Stuart absolutism had merely yielded to the rapacious Hanoverian oligarchy.
Those Anglocentric laments miss what was arguably the greatest harm wrought by the winter of 1688–9: that done to Ireland and Scotland. Forty winters earlier, in 1648–9 – the real seventeenth-century revolution in the Left’s eyes – the English regicides had likewise toppled the ruler of three kingdoms, and had