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The Revolutions of 1688-9 - Interpretations

The Glorious Revolution
Chronology
  • 1678-81: Exclusion crisis (attempt to exclude James from the succession)
  • 1681: Charles II negotiates subsidy from France and thus avoids calling Parliament for the remainder of his reign
  • 1683: Rye House plot, alleged conspiracy to assassinate Charles and James leads to a backlash against the Whigs
  • Feb 1685: James II crowned king.
  • July 1685: Monmouth rebellion overturned
  • Nov 1685: Parliament prorogued and James begins policy of catholicising government
  • June 1688: Birth of James, Prince of Wales
  • Archbishop Sancroft and 6 bishops acquitted on charges of sedition for protesting against reading the Declaration of Indulgence (granted all

  • Christians equality of religious practice)

  • 'Invitation' of 7 politicians to invite William of Orange (married to James' eldest daughter, Mary) to intervene to protect Protestantism and traditional liberties

  • Nov 1688: William lands at Torbay, James fails to lead his (superior) army into battle and thus morale collapses
  • Dec 1688: James driven into exile. William enters London
  • Feb 1689: Convention Parliament summoned
  • Declaration of Rights read to William and Mary

  • William and Mary crowned

  • Mutiny Act makes maintenance of army legal for only 1 year

  • Act of Toleration

  • March 1689: James lands in Ireland
  • April 1689: William and Mary declared joint sovereigns of Scotland
  • 1690: James defeated at battle of the Boyne
  • 1691: Jacobites in Ireland surrender
  • 1694: Triennial Act
  • 1695: Licensing Act not renewed, freedom of the press
  • 1701: Act of Settlement: fixes succession to House of Hanover; transfers right to dismiss judges from King to Parliament
  • 1707: Act of Union between England and Scotland
Historiography
  • a) Begins as 'Court-Whig' Anglo-centred approach and talk of the miraculous event that restored liberties and laws without the loss of (much) bloodshed.
  • b) At the end of the 18th century the question of whether it was 'conservative' or 'radical' was raised in the work of Burke, Paine and Price for example.
  • c) Macaulay and early twentieth century Whigs restored the 'herosim' aspect and viewed it as a sensible or respectable revolution.
  • d) conservative 'revisionist' argue the revolution was not a turning point - there were minimal changes in government and much was a reaffirmation of what had gone before
  • e) the neo-Whigs separate political from social revolutions - arguing that 1688 was a 'political' revolution.
  • f) 'Marxist' historians play down the achievements of 1688 reserving the term 'revolution' for the 1640s.
Significance

Monarchy - few privileges removed; Act of Succession determined path of succession but did not transform monarchy into an elective, rather than heriditary institution; curtailed only in the field of revenue but this was enough to steadily erode its powers during the next 100 years

Parliament - position reaffirmed and strengthened; from now on met regularly with frequent elections; had established a separate persona from the monarch and was released from the uncertainty of the Stuart period to become the major legislative body

Parties - Whigs and Tories views crystallised by revolution but intially there were deep divisions over the legitimacy of what had occurred and the possible implications for law and order; both parties had extreme wings (radical dissenting and Jacobite) because of disappointment with the path of the revolution

People - played a small, if necessary part in the revolution itself. The settlement confirmed rights but did not engender the idea that there should be frequent reviews of rights, leading to a progressive reform of law

Church - deeply divided by the revolution because of the connotations of disobedience. Established church split into three; Catholics endured a century of discrimination; Dissenters achieved some lifting of restrictions but disappointed that William did not deliver more

Outside England - revolution bitter disappointment to Scots who wanted separation from England but eventually were forced to accept Act of Union; there were bloody rebellions in Ireland put down by William; American colonies saw revolution as a justification for armed resistance against tyrannous regimes; implications of revolution also reached other colonies such as the West Indies and Caribbean; Europe viewed it as a struggle against absolutism and restoring natural liberties