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1688: The First Modern Revolution (Lewis Walpole Series in Eighteenth-Century Culture & History) (The Lewis Walpole Series in Eighteenth-century Culture & History) [Hardcover]

Steve Pincus
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

8 Sep 2009 The Lewis Walpole Series in Eighteenth-century Culture & History
For two hundred years historians have viewed England's Glorious Revolution of 1688-1689 as an un-revolutionary revolution - bloodless, consensual, aristocratic, and above all, sensible. In this brilliant new interpretation Steve Pincus refutes this traditional view. By expanding the interpretive lens to include a broader geographical and chronological frame, Pincus demonstrates that England's revolution was a European event, that it took place over a number of years, not months, and that it had repercussions in India, North America, the West Indies, and throughout continental Europe. His rich historical narrative, based on masses of new archival research, traces the transformation of English foreign policy, religious culture, and political economy that, he argues, was the intended consequence of the revolutionaries of 1688-1689. James II developed a modernization programme that emphasized centralized control, repression of dissidents, and territorial empire. The revolutionaries, by contrast, took advantage of the new economic possibilities to create a bureaucratic but participatory state. The post-revolutionary English state emphasized its ideological break with the past and envisioned itself as continuing to evolve. All of this, argues Pincus, makes the Glorious Revolution - not the French Revolution - the first truly modern revolution. This wide-ranging book reenvisions the nature of the Glorious Revolution and of revolutions in general, the causes and consequences of commercialization, the nature of liberalism, and ultimately the origins and contours of modernity itself.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (8 Sep 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300115474
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300115475
  • Product Dimensions: 4.1 x 18.1 x 26.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 653,842 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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`Steve Pincus's book [is] a work of spectacular ambition and astonishingly wide learning ... dense yet lucid and vigorous.' --Blair Worden, Literary Review, October 2009

`Mr Pincus explodes in succession each of the myths about the Glorious Revolution ... [a] cogently argued account.' --Economist, 17th October 2009

'...compelling and forcefully argued... It is a book that will prompt intense historical debate for many years to come.' --Ted Vallance, New Statesman, 26th October 2009

`In 1688 ... [Pincus] has written a swashbuckling book ... As fearless iconoclasm, 1688 can hardly be bettered.'
--David Scott, Standpoint, 1st November 2009

`An engaging read...this book will unquestionably become a major talking-point among all interested in Britain's last revolution.'
--Ted Vallance, BBC History Magazine, 1st December 2009

`Pincus's marvellously learned book is the product of years of industrious archival labour.'
--Jonathan Clark, Times Literary Supplement, 15th January 2010

`...one of the most ambitious works of history to appear in recent years... The book is a marvel of scholarship.'
--Matthew Price, The National, 25th December 2009

`A book that will be difficult for any student of the 17th century or of the revolutions to ignore.' --Mark Knights, Reviews in History, April 2010

`No historian of the Glorious Revolution - or the regime it established - will be able to overlook this remarkable work.'
--William Gibson, Archives, April 2010

About the Author

Steven Pincus is professor of history at Yale University. He is the author of 'The Politics of the Public Sphere in Early Modern England', 'Protestantism and Patriotism: Ideologies and the Making of English Foreign Policy, 1650-1668', and 'England's Glorious Revolution: A Brief History with Documents'.

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Customer Reviews

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
By Mark Pack TOP 1000 REVIEWER
The traditional picture of 1688 is of a rather English revolution - one much politer, less violent, more limited and rather more sensible and rational than the bloody versions of revolution seen in other countries. In this work Steve Pincus sets out to challenge that view.

In his view the Glorious Revolution was not simply a quick and painless transfer of power at the top of the state but a wide reaching and fundamental alteration to the state, politics, society and culture - all deliberately planned by opponents of James II. They were not seeking simply to oppose him but also to offer the country a different route to modernisation. The Glorious Revolution was not, as in the traditional version, a defence of the English way of life against an errant monarch who had blundered for a few years but, in Pincus's eyes, the creation of a new way of life. This view, he argues, returns historical interpretation to a position much closer to that held by many in the eighteenth century.

Rather than James II's approach of centralisation, intolerance of dissidents and territorial empire, his opponents created a participatory state set on a course of continuous evolution. Instead of James II taking the country down a path towards a country in the style of Louis XIV, the revolutionaries looked to Holland for a radically different alternative vision of the future.

Holland too was a country where the military was at the centre of the government's efforts, with a centralised state at home and military intervention abroad. However, it was also a state valued political participation rather than an absolute monarch, tolerated different religions and encouraged manufacturing rather than focusing on protecting a landed empire.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book was occasionally informative, but was overlong and badly written. His extensive research has allowed Pincus to write a comprehensive and informative narrative of the Glorious Revolution that is occasionally compelling and entertaining. However, as a work of scholarship it is a failure. He fails to establish any of his main points, and from very early on it becomes clear that his academic judgement is poor. Contrary to his claim that this book overturns the accepted wisdom regarding the causes and consequences of the Glorious Revolution, it actually proved the soundness of the Lord Macauley’s original history.

He is a poor author. He has clearly done a lot of research but the author’s job is to distil that knowledge into a readable text and organise it to support a coherent argument. His style is to vomit forth all his research onto the page. Not only does this make for a turgid and tedious read, but he fails to appreciate that this does not help him prove his points. For instance, he attempts to prove the importance of the Newcastle coal trade by quoting lots of different people all saying things such as “there was more coals vented in one year than was in seven-years forty years by-past.” And so on for pages. It would be shorter and more compelling to simply quote the estimated production numbers. Furthermore, the population of Great Britain and Ireland at the time was roughly 7 million. Using quotes from half a dozen people to support an argument is deeply unsatisfactory because (a) the sample size is tiny, (b) it is a partial selection of quotes and he does not give us any information about the views of the whole sample. It does, however, make for a dull, repetitive read. He seems to have a complete aversion to statistics.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 1688 - all that and more 7 April 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I think this is a really interesting book - over long, not well written, vastly over evidenced - but definitely interesting.

Pincus is concerned with taking on both Whiggish, conservative and revisionist historians interpretations of what 1688 was about and where it sits in the long view of English, British, European and world history. This he succeeds in doing for the most part.

Pincus argues that 1688 was not a coup, was not a foreign invasion, was not motivated by religion, was motivated by opposition to an absolutist vision of the state, and, so, was European in outlook, but that Tory and Whig visions of the alternative to absolutism would be played out over the coming decades and that 1688 set England and Britain on the road to being a modern capitalist, manufacturing society.

In most of these arguments, Pincus succeeds. There are places where he doesn’t succeed. I don’t think that he makes a case for a genuinely popular revolution, at least not one where lower classes develop political agendas independently of higher social classes. Pincus also suffers because he views James II’s absolutism and the opposing Williamite vision as both being ‘modern’ without addressing how absolutism really fitted into societies with emerging capitalism and was essentially conservative.

All the way through the book, the revolutionary events of 1640-60 assume ‘elephant in the room’ proportions and eventually, in his conclusion, Pincus addresses how England’s two revolutions relate to one another. Unfortunately, this analysis is quite superficial and Pincus is quite dismissive of the mid-century events but does concede that 1688 was not possible without 1640 to 1660.

There's lots to chew over and anyone interested in how changes in modes of production interact with changes in political/state structures will be interested in what Pincus has to say......even though he says it ever so stodgily.
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