LORD CHURCHILL'S COUP: The Anglo-American Empire and the Glorious Revolution Reconsidered by Stephen Saunders Webb

LORD CHURCHILL'S COUP: The Anglo-American Empire and the Glorious Revolution Reconsidered

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In a worthy successor to his noted 1676: The End of American Independence (1984), historian Webb (Syracuse Univ.) gives an account of the transatlantic Protestant military putsch known to history as the Glorious Revolution, which was orchestrated by John Churchill, Winston's illustrious ancestor and the first duke of Marlborough. British tradition has it that the Glorious Revolution was an extraordinary nonviolent triumph of political and religious freedom over the foreign forces of Catholicism and despotism. Webb shows that in fact it was pervasively military: Churchill, the realm's premier soldier, betrayed his longtime patron James II when James's growing military might and French/Catholic sympathies threatened the religious freedom and political liberties of his subjects. In 1688, Churchill secretly orchestrated a Protestant military coup on both sides of the Atlantic that paralyzed the king's partisans and colonial governors as the army of William of Orange invaded England. Webb also qualifies the traditional view by taking a global perspective on the civil war, showing that the Glorious Revolution's upshot was a constitutionally conservative compromise that set the stage for the further development of the British Empire. As his narrative shows, while Lord Churchill's coup was bloodless in Britain itself (James fled as soon as his army disintegrated), its legacy was violent indeed. The lasting scars left by the coup and by James's failed resurgence at the Boyne (1689) are revealed in the sectarian violence of Northern Ireland. Moreover, Webb contends that the incident planted the ideological seeds of the American Revolution. Indeed, Webb recognizes that the similarities go beyond ideology: In the US Constitution, the American framers strove to replicate the army, financial institutions, and strong executive that were central to the success of Lord Churchill's coup as the foundations of American national growth. A colorful, absorbing, and well-told tale.

Pub Date: Nov. 5th, 1995
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Knopf