Book Review: 1688: The First Modern Revolution


by Steve Pincus

New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009. Pp. xiii, 647. Illus, maps, notes, biblio., index. $40.00. ISBN: 0300115474

In 1688: The First Modern Revolution, Prof. Pincus (Yale), gives us masterful, and massive. account of the circumstances, events, and consequences of the "Glorious Revolution"

A "revisionist" account in the best sense of the term, 1688 tosses out much of the traditional popular "take" on the revolution.  For example, that it was not "bloodless", as is so often claimed, and that it was supported by perhaps a bare majority of England's "political" population.  Nor was it because James II wanted to establish "Popery" in England; though religious issues existed, it was more due to the King's efforts to build a royal absolutism on the model of Louis XIV's France, in which papal influence and religious conformity were minimalized, versus a more progressive vision of a participatory bourgeois regime.  Nor was it just an "English" revolution, for the Dutch Republic played a major role in effecting "regime change" across the North Sea, and that it had implications in Ireland and elsewhere, as far afield as the Americas and India.

The book is divided into four sections, each of two or three chapters.  The first part is introductory, with chapters on the image of the "Glorious Revolution" and on the nature of revolution.  The second part deals with England on the eve of the revolution, with a look at the rise of bourgeois ("Dutch") society, domestic politics, and various aspects of  what the author terms "Catholic Modernity".  The third part deals with the events of 1688, with chapters inquiring into the extent to which it was popular, violent, and divisive.  This is followed by a several chapters dealing with the ways in which the revolution affected England's foreign policy, political economy, and religious institutions, and two chapters embodying Prof. Pincus' conclutions.

A good read for the serious student of English history.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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