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The Revolution: The Great Crisis of the British Monarchy, 1685-1720 (Allen Lane History) [Illustrated] [Hardcover]

Tim Harris
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

26 Jan 2006 Allen Lane History
To an extraordinary extent everyone in Britain still lives under the shadow of the 'Glorious Revolution' of 1688. It was a massive, brutal and terrifying event, which completely changed the governments of England, Scotland and Ireland and which was only achieved through overwhelming violence. Initiated by a large Dutch army marching through southern England and climaxing in a series of the most terrible battles ever fought on Irish soil, the revolution by which William III seized James II' kingdoms could only for a very narrow and exclusively English viewpoint be called 'glorious'. Many thousands died during the Revolution, an event that marked a new and final orientation for Britain that, except for a large part of Ireland, has endured to the present day. "Revolution" brilliantly captures the sense that this was a great turning point in Britain's history, but also shows how severe a price was paid to achieve this.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane; illustrated edition edition (26 Jan 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0713997591
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713997590
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16 x 4.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 54,893 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Gripping ... a much-needed reinterrogation (Daily Telegraph)

A magisterial work...confident prose, trenchant insight and vivid illustration (Independent) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Tim Harris is Professor of History at Brown University, Rhode Island. He previously taught for some years at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. His last book was the widely praised Restoration: Charles II and His Kingdoms, 1660-1685 (published simultaneously with Revolution in paperback) which is a prelude to the current book.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is Tim Harris's second of two books covering the Restoration of King Charles II and the Glorious Revolution that ended the reign of his brother James II.

Whilst the author states that each of these books can be read in isolation, I would recommend that they be read together in sequence since the first gives so much insight into the second. But if you are not familiar with the history of those times, I would further recommend first reading a more broad-brush history of the events (such as Edward Vallance's "The Glorious Revolution: 1688 - Britain's Fight for Liberty") to gain a better perspective of Harris's theses.

Theses is probably an appropriate word to describe Harris's books since they are academic works that break new ground, and differ in many ways from more customary histories. Most noticeably they do not focus on events: the Monmouth rebellion is dealt with in less than a page, and the Siege of Derry and the Battle of the Boyne are covered in probably fewer words. Yet what he writes about these and other events is all that needs to be said about them (though one might not appreciate their historic significance if one was not familiar with the stories surrounding them). Instead, Harris focuses on the way events were affected by the views of contemporary people - monarchs, ministers, MPs, churchmen, local officials and the general population, and how the lives of people were affected by then.

Both books are in fact compendiums of contemporary quotations from historical records, combined with Harris's own incisive interpretation of the views that are expressed and on the effects of such views on events. It's a vivid mosaic that gives the reader a genuine sense of appreciating and understanding the later-Stuart world as people experienced it.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Puts the revolution back into perspective 12 Jun 2008
The revolution of 1688 was for centuries considered the foundation of the modern British state and constitution. In 1788 and 1888, there were great national celebrations to commemorate it. In the 1960s it fell out of fashion, first with Marxists historians, and then with conservatives, who argued it was merely a coup d'etat within the ruling class.

Tim Harris's book is one of a number putting the revolution back into proper historical context, and explaining how fundamental it was not only in the political and social development of Britain, but also in Scotland, Ireland and in the American colonies. Harris explains how the Stuarts' ideology of the absolute divine right of kings gave way to the constitutional rule of law to which everyone was equally subject, with an independent judiciary, division of powers, free speech, popular elections and parliaments. Of the current crop of popular histories of the revolution, this is probably the best in terms of balanced overview, and in presenting a conventional "narrative history". It's probably the best general history book on the subject at least since David Ogg's work in the 1950's.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A highly biased book with great omissions 14 Aug 2011
This is a very strange book. Although it seems to have high praise reviews, I see this book as fundamentally flawed. The cover is badly chosen. It shows William of Orange (William III of the Netherlands) but he is within the book a minor player. A mere puppet who is not indicated to have had any influence on historical events, which are described as merely a British Isles affair. There is no indication of why he decided to go to England (he was invited and merely came as if summoned), all the narrative concerns discussion within the local parliaments and William merely gives his final consent and does not seem to have any influence. He is not an active participant for such an important figure. I therefore see the rich detail as chosen in an extremely biased way with fundamental aspects omitted for drawing adequate causal conclusions.

The rich detail to the seeds of unrest are well described (James and the implementation of his agenda and the reaction to this among the general public). It is however the case that such unrest could only be changed into a change of ruler if there was any real backing of military force behind it with teeth. This is indicated by the failing of two minor military uprisings that were supposed to be fuelled by popular resentment. The Dutch were the most powerful and wealthy protestant country at the time and were the only ones able to finance and back a real threat with ease. They were also the only with the ability to launch a maritime invasion since the Dutch had supremacy of seas since the English were not yet the rulers of the sea. The book completely overlooks this aspect as having an important causal effect.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History -writing at its best 2 Jan 2012
By Didier TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I have ever loved reading about English (or rather British) history, and this book was a real treat. Having recently read Jenny Uglow's A Gambling Man (which is, by the way, also a fabulous read) it seemed only logical to continue with 'what happened next': the short-lived reign of James II and the Glorious Revolution. As he states in the introduction Tim Harris set out to accomplish two things primarily with his book: to show that it was domestic political turmoil rather than external factors (i.e. the invasion by William of Orange) that toppled James from the throne, and to demonstrate that the Glorious Revolution was not a 'tame' affair but rather truly revolutionary both in spirit and in outcome. To do so (and according to me he proves both points beyond any doubt) Harris uses a broad social context instead of focusing on the political elite, and takes James' three kingdoms England, Scotland and Ireland into account.

What follows is a superb account of this landmark event in British history, and how indeed James II was king for barely three years, although his succession to the throne in 1685 was greeted with enthusiasm. A fascinating story, and Harris describes it with verve and full of detail. Harris clearly did lots of research into both primary and secondary sources (there's 80 pages of notes to the text) but this massive amount of information never gets in the way of the narrative. Although strictly speaking it is not necessary I wish I had read I had read the companion volume
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