England in the 1690s: Revolution, Religion and War

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CRAIG ROSE. England in the 1690s: Revolution, Religion and War. History of Early Modern England series. Oxford, England: Blackwell Publishers, 1999. Pp. xvii + 331, illustrations, notes, index. $36.95 (paper).

In November 1688 William of Orange, the son-in-law of the British king, James II, invaded England, an act that led to James' flight from England and the crowning of William and Mary as England's rulers, the last British monarchs to gain the throne by force of arms. Hailed by many as a Protestant savior, William's reign was an often tragic period of continuing controversy. William, by nature cold and shy, never won the love of his people, and his actions, especially regarding the church and the prosecution of his wars in Europe, led many of his subjects to distrust him Although he would be hailed as a Protestant hero at the end of the eighteenth century, this was not the feeling he engendered among his subjects during the 1690s. While he secured the British Isles from the threat of Roman Catholicism, like Oliver Cromwell, with whom he was often compared, William never lived up to the hope that he would be the godly ruler who could achieve Protestant unity and moral reform in England.

Craig Rose tells the story of William's reign in a well-written and thought-provoking survey, and he writes from the vantage point of those who lived through the period. With the undergraduate particularly in mind, he focuses on the nature of the revolution, the conduct of William's European wars, and the revolution's impact on England's religious situation. While specialist works on the period have proliferated, no one-volume history of the era has been published since David Ogg's England in the Reigns of James II and William III (1955), and in filling this gap in current scholarship, Rose sets William's reign in a seventeenth-century context, in contrast to recent studies which treat the decade as a part of the eighteenth century. He also offers a counterpoint to J.C.D. Clark's contention that the revolution was a conservative effort at securing the hegemony of the Church of England and England's aristocracy, suggesting that William's contemporaries, especially Tories, did not see things that way.

As the subtitle indicates, religion plays a significant role in the story of this decade. Concurring with Tony Claydon's recent book, Rose contends that in 1689 many in England hailed William as a deliverer providentially sent to liberate England from James's Catholicism and secure the safety of European Protestantism. …