The Road Not Taken: How Britain Narrowly Missed a Revolution by Frank McLynn - review by Edward Vallance

Edward Vallance

The Revolution Will Not Be Realised

The Road Not Taken: How Britain Narrowly Missed a Revolution


The Bodley Head 610pp £25

Historians are fond of making grand claims for their particular periods of interest: to take just one example, a recent major history of the Glorious Revolution by Steve Pincus, 1688: The First Modern Revolution, contained the claim that it was not only bloodier than the French Revolution but also established the template for all subsequent modern revolutions. Arguments such as this certainly have value in provoking historical debate but they can become wearing when every historical event is described, either by historians or their publicists, as a ‘turning-point’, ‘watershed’, or suchlike.  It is refreshing, then, to be confronted with a book whose aim is actually the reverse: to show why Britain has not, contrary to the arguments of historians such as Pincus, experienced a ‘real’ revolution.

In The Road Not Taken, the prolific historian Frank McLynn looks at seven episodes where Britain narrowly avoided experiencing revolutionary change. McLynn’s choices range from the medieval period (the Peasants’ Revolt) to the modern (the General Strike). Erudite and authoritative, the book is a pleasure to read. The sections on

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