Magazine November 2, 2009, Issue

A Proper Revolution?

Detail of a portrait of King William III, by Godfrey Kneller (1646–1723) (National Galleries of Scotland/Wikimedia Commons)
1688: The First Modern Revolution, by Steve Pincus (Yale, 647 pp., $40)

Infuriated by the high-church, high-Tory critiques of a British historian impertinent enough to suggest that the tercentenary of England’s Glorious Revolution of 1688 was not worth celebrating, Mrs. Thatcher’s then Lord Chancellor jibed that “academic historians never make their money by saying that the established truth is true.” I’m not sure what the late Baron Hailsham of St. Marylebone would have made of a new account of that same revolution by Yale professor Steve Pincus. Meticulously researched and deftly written, Pincus’s book demolishes established truths (actually untruths) about the Glorious Revolution only to cram 1688 into a corset (“the first

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