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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 program 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 postrevolutionary 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.


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82 internautes sur 87 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
An important book, but not for the average reader 5 janvier 2010
Par Roger Berlind - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
Previous readers have all shed light on the strengths and weaknesses of this important book by Steve Pincus. While the author has clearly done very significant research on England's Glorious Revolution of 1688-89, his book will not appeal to casual readers who primarily want to know what happened and why the Glorious Revolution was important.

The problem is that Pincus is overly focused on showing that the Glorious Revolution was actually a modern revolution and on comparing his interpretation with interpretations of other historians. Instead of providing a linear narrative of the events, he summarizes what makes some revolutions modern and then demonstrates that the Glorious Revolution meets all the criteria. Unfortunately, this leads Pincus to jump around a lot within the overall chronology. For historians interested in the period, this probably won't matter; they will find the book rich in analysis and very thought-provoking. I would not be surprised to see Pincus win awards for his book based on the quality of his scholarship. I found his arguments generally persuasive and can see his interpretation eventually becoming the mainstream interpretation. If that occurs, he will have certainly met his main goal in researching and writing the book.

Given the author's focus on justifying his interpretation of the Glorious Revolution, it is not surprising that he fails to paint full portraits of the main actors. While he does give a good sense of what James II was all about, he does not give any insight on why William III was willing to risk invading Great Britain when he was already the ruler of the Netherlands. The same is true of the bit players; Pincus is really only interested in quoting them to support his argument.

Finally, the book suffers from the fact that Pincus beats his argument to death, using 10 quotations when 2 or 3 would have sufficed. This was the main criticism of noted historian Bernard Bailyn in his review of "1688" in "The New York Review of Books" (11/19/2009) which generally praised Pincus for his scholarship and fresh interpretation.

Readers looking for a more accessible narrative of the Glorious Revolution might be better served by The Glorious Revolution: 1688-Britain's Fight for Liberty (2008) by Edward Vallance. I have not yet read it and no Amazon readers have reviewed it yet, but Amazon's Look Inside feature makes it clear that Vallance provides a more conventional narrative history. (The back cover even promises a "thrilling narrative".) Vallance agrees with Pincus that the Revolution was a bloody event. Another possibility is Revolution: The Great Crisis of the British Monarchy, 1685-1720 (2008) by Tim Harris. Bernard Bailyn indicated in his review of the Pincus book that Pincus and Harris were friends in graduate school and made a deal to avoid stepping on each other's books; while Pincus set his history in a broader European context, Harris focused more on the internal dynamics between England, Scotland, and Ireland. (Nobody has reviewed it yet on Amazon.) Readers interested in a history of the broader period, 1603-1714, might want to check out The Century of Revolution: 1603-1714, which was originally written by Christopher Hill in 1961 and updated in 1980; this received 5 star reviews from all 3 Amazon readers who reviewed it.
30 internautes sur 30 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Masterful take on a pivotal and complex subject 3 février 2010
Par Amazon Customer - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
There are easy subjects, hard subjects, very hard subjects, and those precious few subjects that center around the question, "How did we become Modern"? In this last group, the "Glorious Revolution" of 1688 is a particularly tough one to get right, and Pincus succeeds both with the strength of his argument and the clarity (and ease) of his writing. He manages to explain what the old "Whig history" of Macaulay gets right, while also making clear what it gets wrong. The same goes for the more recent revisionist history, where he manages to pick out the very few grains of the revisionist critique that are correct. More than that, he paints a new picture of the events of 1685-1689 that are more vivid, richer, and more plausible than either of these views--this picture partly draws on the largely lost "Radical Whig" narrative, and partly on Pincus' own reading and assembly of the current evidence about the Revolution. In addition to simply being the best, most complete telling of the story of this period that I've read, there are three strengths and one weakness that are worth highlighting, I think:

Strength 1. What stands out in this book is Pincus' new theory of revolutions. Instead of seeing revolutions as a revolt of the new against the old, he argues that the *first* step is that the ruling regime *breaks* with the past to offer a new vision of a modernized state we can call "Model A". That is, the entrenched power structure begins a program of modernization on Model A. A revolution is the result of a new group, who have a different ideal for a modernized state, which we can call Model B, rising up against Model A, not the old traditional ways. In other words, The state does the heavy lifting of destroying traditional, conservative ways, so the revolutionaries only have to compete with an alternate program of modernity. In the case of 1688, James II tried to modernize England as an Absolutist Monarchy along the lines of Louis XIV's France. The revolutionaries rejected this approach, instead electing to "Go Dutch" as Lisa Jardine would have it--they imported a modernization scheme based on the open society of the United Provinces. Not only is this a great explanation of 1688, but this new way of looking at revolutions sparks all sorts of interesting ideas about other revolutions. There is a weakness buried in this strength, however--the book would have benefitted from a more fleshed-out, if still brief, discussion of why the English Civil War is not a "modern revolution" in his eyes.

Strength 2. Pincus does an excellent job of countering the recent narrative (pace Johnathan Israel and others) that the Glorious Revolution was essentially a Dutch invasion and hostile takeover of England (though this is closer to the truth in Scotland, and almost entirely correct in Ireland). Israel and others have done a marvelous job of showing that the old Whig narrative of a small elite inviting Willem van Oranje and Mary Stuart to accept the throne to protect The Protestant Religion and Willem altruistically crossing the channel to bloodlessly march to London and accept the crown on behalf of a grateful nation is horribly inadequate. Pincus adds to this, showing just what a major military operation this was, the fact that it was not bloodless, and that this was an enormous risk for Willem, who very definitely was prepared to fight. He also shows, however, that while he was prepared for great opposition from James, some loyalists, and the French and Irish, he expected to have the overwhelming support of the English people. Pincus is convincing that Willem never would have attempted a hostile takeover, while he was willing to take part in a popular, yet partially opposed, coup d'etat.

Strength 3. Pincus explains, in careful and eye-opening detail, what James II's program was, and what it was not, and what the opposition was concerned about, and what it was not. In particular, he demolishes the notion that this was, at the root, a confessional struggle, based either in unthinking anti-Catholicism on the part of Radical Whigs, or a pox-on-both-your-houses revolt of Anglican hard-liners against a Dissenter-Catholic alliance. James's program was Catholic, to be sure, but it was French Catholic Absolutism, and the "Catholic" was the least important of those three words, and "Absolutism" the most important. He catalogs exactly what Louis XIV's centralized, absolutist police state was, and how James was very successfully copying it in England from 1685-8. The picture painted is not one of Louis merely weakening the old French nobility of Versailles, but of Louis (and James) creating early versions that presage the authoritarian, and ultimately totalitarian states of the later modern centuries. For example, James' quadrupling of the size of the peacetime army and quartering these troops in pubs and private dwellings, while at the same time developing a huge domestic spy network, almost certainly felt to the English as a *massive* increase in military-governmental control of their lives, and a reduction of personal freedoms.

Weakness. While Pincus touches on this, his treatment of the Dutch system the revolutionaries were importing and the background to Willem's Great Gamble in Dutch history is too light to understand the Dutch part of the story. In other words, it's less clear what the revolutionaries thought they were fighting *for* in bringing over Willem and Mary than the Absolutist monarchy they thought they were fighting *against*. It's equally true that Pincus' description the strong support Willem knew he would receive on landing in England explains why he thought the adventure was likely to be successful, while it remains less clear why he was so anxious to try in the first place. If one knows 17th century Dutch history well, Pincus leaves enough breadcrumbs that you can "fill in the blanks", but if you don't, you might be forgiven for thinking that Willem just wanted more provinces to his name like a typical Medieval aristocrat. Without a detailed understanding of Willem II's refusal to disband the army in the 1640s, the near-siege of Amsterdam, and the Stadtholderless period, you can't understand why the willingness of the Staten Generaal to support the Glorious Revolution was so remarkable, and without a much better explanation of the Anglo-French invasion of the United Provinces in 1672 and the fiscal strains of that event, you can't understand why Willem saw this as a defensive maneuver, the only possible way to ensure the survival of the Dutch state and the "True Freedom" that the Dutch saw as their national identity. In telling a broader story in the "European context", Pincus did a fabulous job in explaining the English and French pieces of the puzzle that is the events of 1685-9, as well as the Scottish-Irish pieces, but the Dutch piece is a little light.

All of that said, the book is one of the best history books I've read in some time, and I think will establish the new standard view of this important topic, as well as spinning off other excellent books from Pincus and others that build on this foundation.
47 internautes sur 51 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Glorious 20 octobre 2009
Par Christian Schlect - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
A superb history of one of the foundation events upon which the modern Western/liberal state was built.

Professor Pincus brings broad and deep scholarship to this book, which, in turn, provides impressive value to the serious reader.

If you want to learn more about why the English turned away from James II and his style of modernization (focused on the French model) and the effects of this revolution on foreign relations, military (blue water navy or a standing army?), economics (land vs. manufacturing as the source of a country's wealth), religion (tolerant?), read this book.

It is not focused on personalities: you will not learn much about William and Mary, for example. However, this book is a remarkable synthesis of various strands of historical thought on what many heretofore have viewed as almost a peaceful, conservative non-event.

Professor Pinucus hammers his firmly held opinions home repeatedly, backed up by multiple citations. His views on the Glorious Revolution seem to this common reader to be sound and quite useful toward explaining not only 1688 England, but also much of the political, economic, and religious world of today.
9 internautes sur 10 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Great scholarship and ideas - hard work sometimes 2 janvier 2010
Par Robert Ashton - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
In 1688, James II of England fled the country and the following year his daughter, Mary, and son-in-law William of Orange were named Queen and King. In recent times, this "Glorious Revolution" has been portrayed as either a typically English sensible conservative movement to protect the ancient constitution or as a reaction to the increasing encouragement of Roman Catholicism by James. In either case, this was not a true modern revolution unlike e.g.the French or Russian ones. Steve Pincus, professor of history at Yale University sets out, and I believe convincingly, to overthrow this view and establish 1688-9 as "The First Modern Revolution".

Pincus argues it is wrong to assume that revolution is due to a failure of the existing regime to react to changing circumstances. He argues that, in fact, revolutions only occur when the regime attempts to modernize and is faced with competing ideas as to how to do that. He traces the steps that changed the popular mood from enthusiastic support of James in 1685 to one that forced him to flee in 1688. James II wished to develop a modern, centralized, absolutist monarchy modeled on that of Louis XIV, the"Sun King" of France. During this process he alienates not only the reforming Whigs but also many of the Tories (who fear the expanding power of Louis) and Catholics (who do not agree with his approach to Catholicism). Pincus examines the events of the revolution itself and shows how it was much more popular, violent and divisive then is often portrayed, with a significant minority remaining Jacobins, culminating in a foiled assassination and invasion plan in 1696. After William becomes king, Pincus argues convincingly that in foreign policy, the economy and the Church of England radical changes were made.

This book is not a general history and requires some knowledge of the events of the period. Pincus has clearly done considerable research and draws very heavily on contemporary sources. Although it is interesting to hear the actual thoughts of people at the time, the sheer volume of quotes can overwhelm the point being made. He also has a tendency to be repetitive. These two characteristics can make the book much harder work than it need be. It's worth reading for the insights and sheer depth of research but I fear many will give up before the end.
7 internautes sur 8 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Excellent Theses, Maddening To Read 26 mars 2013
Par Dave - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
"1688" is I believe worth reading if one has a serious interest in this subject, but even then potential readers should take note that it is not the subject of this book, but rather its writing that is a challenge.

Prof. Pincus makes a strong and persuasive case for his well-research and amply-supported basic arguments, which he contrasts to those of other historians. While he did not, I believe, make an altogether convincing case that there is something unique about a "modern revolution" and that 1688 fits such a definition, he does show that Glorious Revolution histories have been especially fraught with biased politicization, the residue of which continues to find itself in recent work. The great merit of "1688" is that it shows both of the major contending political forces of the day even-handedly. There is no discernible political bias in the book.

But there is a "but" in this review.

I prefer long and challenging histories. The ones I like most of all are those that are academically sound but also are well-written. For me these make for very "good reads." In my view, "1688" succeeds in the former but fails in the latter. It is a book that suffers from an unremitting and maddening repetition of the various points the author wishes to make. One cannot know if this was a matter of patronizing and poor writing or inadequate editing. In any case, when I no longer could tolerate yet another round of repetition, I found it necessary to start skimming my way through the pages toward the end of the book.

"1688" is like old fashioned, but effective medicine. Good for you, but hard to swallow.
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