The Glorious Revolution: 1688-Britain's Fight for Liberty

The Glorious Revolution: 1688-Britain's Fight for Liberty

by Edward Vallance

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"A swashbuckling re-examination of a forgotten moment in British history by a richly talented young historian."—Daily TelegraphSee more details below


"A swashbuckling re-examination of a forgotten moment in British history by a richly talented young historian."—Daily Telegraph

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

England's "Glorious Revolution"-when the ruling, quasi-Catholic Stuart dynasty was usurped by the robustly Protestant William of Orange-has traditionally been regarded as the most boring revolution ever. It was quick, it was bloodless, it was polite-all very English, in other words. As Vallance's epigraphs show, commentators as diverse as Karl Marx and Margaret Thatcher agreed that William's ascent to the throne led to Britain's rise as a commercial, democratic, religiously tolerant world power. Vallance, a professor of early modern history at the University of Liverpool, aims to upset this comfortable consensus and to inject some vividness, action and even gore into the story. He succeeds nicely and his account serves as an admirable introduction to this confusing era. Writing with brio, Vallance possesses a sound grasp of narrative pacing and clarifies the often incomprehensible (at least to modern readers) political, religious and constitutional issues of the time. Paradoxically, Vallance is weakest on the personal character and motivations of the deposed king James II, who remains something of a cipher. Though Vallance wrote originally for a British audience, American readers will be startled to discover how greatly their founders relied on the principles of the Glorious Revolution a century later. 8 pages of color illus. (Apr. 16)

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Library Journal

Before the American and French revolutions came the less cataclysmic Glorious Revolution of 1688, when disaffected British Anglicans invited Protestant Dutch Prince William of Orange and his wife, Mary, to unseat Catholic James II (who happened to be Mary's father). William's invading army beat the Jacobites with little resistance-the bloodshed came later when the battle moved on to Scotland and Ireland (where the legacy of the House of Orange is still remembered). Young British historian Vallance's sober approach to the tangle of 17th-century religious and political allegiances produces an engaging narrative covering all levels of society-there's some colorful street life to relieve the wearying religious and political factionalism. Today we might not dub this change of regime a revolution, but Vallance shows that in the long run the ouster of James Stuart led to a more limited monarchy and a stronger parliament. The change also led to greater persecution of Catholics and non-Anglican Protestants. Among far-reaching effects, the vexing clause guaranteeing the "right to bear arms" in the U.S. Bill of Rights seems to have been adopted from the Declaration of Rights promised by William to satisfy those who welcomed his invasion. This book belongs in all public and academic libraries.
—Stewart Desmond

Kirkus Reviews
England's Glorious Revolution was far more sanguinary and disruptive than traditional histories and the popular imagination would have it, argues Vallance (Early Modern History/Univ. of Liverpool). The author hasn't entirely shed dissertation-ese in his first book, a sometimes stodgy and generally humorless, though otherwise sensible and sturdy effort. Britain's King James II, converted to Roman Catholicism, endeavored to liberate Catholics around the British Isles, causing many to wonder if the Isles were slated for more rounds of heresy-hunting, burnings and forced conversions. The birth of James's son with his Catholic second queen prompted the final crisis, since it would prevent the throne from passing to James's Protestant daughters from his first marriage. When William of Orange, husband of elder daughter Mary, invaded England from Holland, many Britons cheered. James raised an army of opposition but little other support; even his younger daughter, Anne, slipped out of London and allied with William and Mary. James declined his chance to fight-hence the revolution's reputation as bloodless. He ran, was captured and practically had to be forced to "escape" by his Dutch guards, who simply wanted James out of the country so William and Mary could assume the throne without messy complications. Anne returned to reign following their deaths; after her, George I established the Hanoverian line and kept Britain safely Protestant, not to mention newly considerate of Parliament. Vallance excels at showing how the emerging press played a pivotal role in the transition, wryly noting the influence of both booze and coffee on the populace's fiery political fervor. The author also reminds us thatthe revolution was far from bloodless in Ireland and Scotland, where religious passions ran deep and the ultimate political settlements were "far more divisive." Among Vallance's few light moments: a funny word portrait of famously ugly King William. Provocative dissenting view on a major historical event, but it could have used a lighter touch and a breath of wit. Agent: Bill Hamilton/A.M. Heath

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