Once upon a time, Britain actually had a revolution …

… but it was a very British revolution.

I’m doing a six-week evening class at London’s City Literary Institute entitled: “The Making Of The United Kingdom 1603-1801: Restoration, Revolution, and Political Unions”. This week’s session – the third – was all about the 1688-90 Revolution.

It is known as the Glorious Revolution or the Bloodless Revolution and certainly, in the first instance, nobody died.

The Protestant William of Orange was actually invited – by the Immortal Seven noblemen – to take over the British monarchy from the Catholic James II. Initially delayed by storms, William was lucky enough to avoid interception by the English fleet and landed at Torbay with some 20,000 troops. James decided not to deploy his troops and eventually fled the country. A Convention Parliament was elected to work out the terms of the Revolution Settlement.

So far, so British. In fact, subsequently there was armed opposition in Scotland and Ireland and from the French. But this was not as bloody a period as the French Revolution or the American Revolution. Instead it was more like the revolutions of 1989 in Central and Eastern Europe.

Some historians have contrasted the conservatism of the Glorious Revolution with the greater radicalism of the mid-17th century. but other historians have argued that the Revolution itself and subsequent reshaping of English government – especially the emphasis on the supremacy of Parliament – marked a watershed in British political development.

The peculiar British political system has evolved gradually over centuries and even our revolutions are evolutionary.


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