Revolution: The Great Crisis of the British Monarchy 1685–1720 by Tim Harris - review by Simon Heffer

Simon Heffer

Unity At All Costs

Revolution: The Great Crisis of the British Monarchy 1685–1720


Allen Lane The Penguin Press 622pp £30

It often seems convenient to date the beginning of modern Britain at the Glorious Revolution of 1688–89, when the Protestant Prince of Orange liberated first England, then Scotland and Ireland, from the stealthy Romanisation that the kingdoms had undergone during the short reign of James II. As Tim Harris points out towards the end of this well-researched and well-written account of that period, the real revolution seemed to take place not to secure the throne for William of Orange, but once he had secured it. Not the least of the reforms of the 1690s was that of finance, with the foundation of the Bank of England in 1694. With the modernisation of the economy came the need for a more accountable political system, and so it was that the Revolution also brought with it the Triennial Act, which ensured that parliaments met at least every three years and could not sit for more than three years.

Even in the way that William secured his revolution, and dealt with his former opponents, there was a sign that the barbarities of the Middle Ages had finally been left behind. Although he could have enslaved or massacred the soldiers who fought against him in Ireland, for example, he let

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