I didn't find this the easiest book to read I have to say. I struggled with its flow at times. However, there is no doubting the author's knowledge of the subject or period. He does though stick to the political and religious themes in the main. This does give one a lot of the facts of course, but leave one a little short on some of the characters' real lives, and perhaps lacks a slightly more interesting and amusing view point? The lives of the rank & file for instance, the inventions and goings on in the 1600's - the plague, some of the more interesting characters (Pepys etc.) - The whole thing came across on one level - of `high society.' That's not being critical in any way, but perhaps it could have been a bit more interesting and fun if expanded away from the main subject matter at times? There is very little about actual `life' in this period? The book is very comprehensive regarding its subject matter but surely a few pictures & portraits would not have gone a miss, instead, just a few very dull maps? Nor does Kishlansky court controversy; he plays it very safe In terms of the monarchs' sexuality. He is very defensive and rather protective, compared to other writers. James 1 being a classic example. I would also suggest that religion was a complicated subject during this period and that some tuition on the `basic theology' of the period would be helpful before reading this, as the writer clearly believes that the reader will have a good knowledge of the many different faiths? Again, a Glossary would have been a helpful aid? Overall it was very interesting. I do not recall smiling much during the read? A few `light entertainment' moments would have been nice! However, I accept that's just his style! If you want the facts, then yes, they're all here concerning the basic history And most important aspects of this period - job well done and very professionally to boot.
I’m a student using this book to understand seventeenth century literature. Having read other books on the period, I found this one the easiest to read and understand. I loved the little story style beginning of each chapter and how the author slowly moved out to examine that one scene in more detail. Would definitely recommend, especially as the book works chronologically through the seventeenth century (as opposed to by themes like some other books).
This is an enjoyable book to read. Kishlansky's depth of knowledge is evidenced in the comprehensive annotated reading list he provides, a practice I wish more historians would emulate. This is a general history of a century and his sources are secondary as you would expect, but at times there is a lack of depth of analysis, in particular at the time of the 1688 revolution. When parliament and the English people had bent so far backwards to accommodate Charles II in his skilful efforts to prepare the country for the succession of his Catholic brother, why exactly did they turn on James so abruptly? OK, James tried to push Catholicism down everyone's throat in the last year or so, but Kishlansky tells us nothing about how the English people reacted to this, other than the broad facts of William's invasion. He has of course earlier in the book alluded to the English strength of feeling about Protestantism, but that is about all we get. In general Kishlansky you feel slightly disapproves of chaps that rock the boat. But then he's an American and no doubt has his own perspective.
What I really like about this book is the clarity of it's exposition of a series of immensely complex situations, ie the accession of a Scottish monarch, James I to a country which has just found a coherent and stable English identity; the principled and conscientiousness defense of the divine right of kings by Charles I, the brilliance of Cromwell, the incredible successions of shifts and changes under Charles II as he tries to make the best of what with hindsight was a hopeless problem. He also puts the heroics of William and in some ways the unsung brilliance of Anne's adaptability into good perspective. As I say I am less convinced by his portrayal of James II, or more perhaps the reaction of the English to him.
But Kishlansky in general does a great job of bringing all the different factors in situations into balance, religion, finance, ancestry and so on.
I also feel he does more than justice to very complex situations over the century in Scotland and Ireland. In many histories of Britain you feel the historian is saying `Oh, I guess we better put in a bit about Ireland (or Scotland)'. However here I do not feel (contrary to one reviewer on Amazon.com) that they are given short shrift. If there is a sense in which they are treated with contempt that is down to the Stuarts, not Kishlansky, and as he points out, at least in Scotland that was to some extent put right.
As someone with a good knowledge of history, but still lacking in particular segments of it, like the 17th century, I found this book incredibly interesting and well written. It gave me a good overview and in a way that kept me interested. Certainly worth the money!
I bought this book when I was about to do a post-graduate history degree and specialise in periods referred to by the university as 'The Puritan Revolution' and 'The Restoration', effectively English history fromm 1649 to 1688. Apart from knowing that there was an inter-regnum followed by the restoration and the reigns of two of Charles I's sons (for all I knew then, his only two sons but I now know better) I knew very little about the period.
Before I was finished I was going to have to read books devoted in detail to events such as the Barebones parliament, the rule of the major generals, the Popish plot, the Exclusion Crisis (not quite the same but strongly connected), and the so-called Glorious Revolution. But as a starter I needed a book or books that gave me an overview of the period. This book (and the relevant book of Simon Schama's BBC series) met that requirement perfectly.
I now have my degree, but still read and re-read Kishlansky's book regularly just for the pleasure of doing so. His narrative could not be bettered, and I now have a good understanding of the whole Stuart century. Taken as a whole the book shows exactly what the title claims to show, how in one century and in one dynasty England, Scotland and Wales moved from having an absolute monarch, through a period where parliament was at least an irritant that the monarch had to take account of, to one where the monarch had to change the head of government whenever a general election gave a different party a majority in the Commons. As part of that evolution there were civil wars at the end of which a king was beheaded, an inter-regnum where we had a republic (or commonwealth), the founding of the first political parties (for greater detail study the Exclusion crisis - Professor Jones's book is excellent), and we made our first moves towards a constitutional monarch.
The characters of the various monarchs were a significant factor in how these changes came about, and Kishlansky describes the various Stuarts excellently. Why, for example, did Charles II manage to reign for well over 20 years until he suddenly died in his bed with his kingdom under total control, while his brother got kicked out after less than four years? Just reading how they judged (or in James II's case, totally failed to judge)the mood of the people that mattered makes this clear. Each chapter covers one major period or event, and Kishlansky introduces each of these chapters, not with an overview but with a detailed description of one key episode. Once the reader gets used to this unusual style it works perfectly and greatly increases the pleasure in reading the book.
I really cannot speak highly enough of this book, and when I first wanted to read about a different century my first instinct was to look for the relevant book in the same series.