Sunday, June 17, 2007

Book Review: "Our First Revolution"

Well-known political journalist Michael Barone plunges into the armchair history genre with Our First Revolution: The Remarkable British Upheaval That Inspired America's Founding Fathers (Crown, 2007). Drawing on existing secondary sources, Barone has written a concise and interesting account of England's Glorious Revolution, when the Protestant William of Orange overthrew England's King James II in 1688-89 in what Barone says is "the first change of government to be called a revolution" by those who lived through it (pg. 2-3).

The majority of the book treats the history of England in the years following the Restoration, the immediate leadup to William's invasion, and the Glorious Revolution's aftermath. Barone cogently discusses the religious and political turmoil that gripped the British Isles during these decades, and although he breaks little new ground, his discussions are worthwhile for their synthesis of previous research.

Barone's sections on William's skillful and brilliant use of printed propaganda before and during the Glorious Revolution were of great interest, and I wished he'd expanded them. Likewise, given the subtitle it might have been appropriate to provide a fuller examination of the contemporary impact of the Revolution on the American colonies (two paragraphs and then a short concluding chapter form most of this discussion), rather than simply linking the 1688-89 Revolution with America's own struggle decades later.

Slightly flawed, but nonetheless a readable introduction to the period and an excellent analysis of the parliamentary elections from the 1660s through the 1690s.