A MONARCHY TRANSFORMED: Britain 1603-1714 by Mark Kishlansky

A MONARCHY TRANSFORMED: Britain 1603-1714

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A beautifully written but narrowly focused narrative of high politics in 17th-century Britain. Kishlansky (English and European History/Harvard) recognizes that history is a story and that a good historian is a storyteller. His strongly delineated point of view contributes to the flow of the narrative, and his enthusiasm for the subject sustains the reader through thickets of detail about high politics and war. Viewing 17th-century Britain through the eyes of those at the top, Kishlansky always comes down on the side of political stability. He successfully avoids uncritical power worship with judicious criticism of both the Stuart monarchs and of Cromwell. However, as a volume in the new Penguin History of Britain (see also Peter Clarke, Hope and Glory: Britain 1900-1990, p. 186), A Monarchy Transformed is intended to provide a definitive introductory guide for the student and general reader. Although every historian must leave things out of the story, too many important things are neglected in this one. Kishlansky mentions in passing such important matters as Britain's overseas empire, the slave trade, art and literature, science and mathematics, but doesn't weave such materials into his narrative. John Donne is identified merely as a recipient of royal patronage, and John Milton dismissed as an ""ideologue."" The momentous religious changes of the period are discussed mainly when they influence politics or threaten social stability. What is most disappointing, though, is the treatment of women. Queen Mary is mentioned and Queen Anne gets a chapter, but beyond that women appear at the margins of history, as irrational teenage royal brides or midwives accused of kidnapping children for satanic rituals. Women should not be marginalized in any volume that aspires to the status of a general survey. Although successful as a forceful narrative of politics at the center, this volume is a disappointing general introduction to 17th-century British history.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1997
Page count: 386pp
Publisher: Allen Lane/Viking