The Glorious Revolution

By Spellman, W. M. | Anglican and Episcopal History, June 2002 | Go to article overview

The Glorious Revolution


Spellman, W. M., Anglican and Episcopal History


EVELINE CRUICKSHANKS. The Glorious Revolution. British History in Perspective. New York: Macmillan Press Ltd., 2000. Pp. v + 126, select bibliography, index. £42.50 (hardcover), £13.50 (paper).

Macmillan's British History in Perspective series seeks to provide students and the general reader with synoptic overviews based on the most upto-date research and scholarship. In The Glorious Revolution, Eveline Cruickshanks makes two important contributions to the historiographical debate surrounding the removal of James II and his replacement by William and Mary. This short book is an exceptionally inclusive study of the revolution, both in terms of its review of the major interpretive traditions and in its integration of Irish and Scottish developments during the revolution.

First and foremost, Cruickshanks reviews and rejects the "Whig" interpretation of the period 1685-1689, as first articulated by the nineteenthcentury historian T. B. Macaulay in his History of England since (he Accession of James II and later forwarded by C. H. Firth and G. M. Trevelyan. Trevelyan's The English Revolution, 1688-89 was first published in 1938, just a couple of years before a new generation of Marxist scholars, led by Christopher Hill, reset the terms of the debate for the middle decades of the twentieth century. According to Cruickshanks, both the Whig view of James as autocratie villain and the Marxist picture of the revolution as a bourgeoisie palace coup fail to appreciate the military and diplomatic side of William of Orange's invasion of the island kingdom. William was no monarch by popular demand; he neither guaranteed religious freedom nor provided for the triumph of parliament, as Whig scholars had insisted for three centuries. Rather, the invasion of England was part of a larger plan to appropriate the considerable military and financial resources of Britain in the conflict against Louis XIV. Cruickshanks endorses the interpretive efforts of Alice Pinkham, who was one of the first non-Marxists to question the "Whig" consensus in the 1950s, and Jonathan Israel, who has more recently set the Glorious Revolution within the wider context of military developments on the continent.

There are fourteen chapters in this book of just over 100 pages, and the effort to include a background treatment of the long and eventful reign of Charles II (r. 1660-1685) is less than illuminating, but once the author turns to the reign of James II (1685-1688), the challenging interpretations begin to unfold. James, we learn, was something other than the aspiring absolutist seeking to model his administration along French lines while simultaneously denying the religious rights of Protestants. Instead, the new king was a genuine champion of religious toleration who sought to provide public employment and political rights without reference to church affiliation.

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