Just finished Our First Revolution, Michael Barone's history of the Glorious Revolution of 1688-89. It is a wonderful book, full of illuminating detail, as well as the ability to deliver a punch line. For example:
The First Revolution was a tremendously consequential event and a tremendously improbable one. . . . as the historian Paul Rahe writes, it "was by no means inevitable. It more nearly resembled a freak accident." William of Orange, stadholder of the Netherlands, assembled an army variously estimated at 15,00 to 20,000 men and a flotilla of five hundred ships, crossed the English Channel in the usually wind-tossed month of November, then pushed James II to order his army to retreat without a battle. Princess Mary, Williams' wife, and Princess Anne cooperated in the ouster of their father, James II. It was, as Pocock continues, "a spectacular display of reason of state rising above the restraints of common morality; daughters dethroned their father, even the sanitized version of King Lear was hard to perform for many years, and what William of Orange and John Churchill severally did is still enough to take your breath away if you think about it." Or, as the Calvinist and usually humorless William said to the Anglican clergyman Gilbert Burnet after his troops successfully landed in England, "Well, Doctor, what do you think of predestination now?"