Friday, January 25, 2008

Book review: Our First Revolution by Michael Barone.

I have a great deal of respect and admiration for the Founding Fathers. They led a set of separate colonies to form The United States of America. The original 13 colonies were individual states or nations which initially agreed on very little. It was not an easy job to form a republic which has provided a foundation for great changes in the world, mostly good I believe.

One of my favorite books about this period is David McCullough's biography of John Adams. We hear so much of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. I knew of John Adams, but didn’t know much about him. Several years ago a friend at church recommended the book and so I picked it up. It was hard to put down.

Our First Revolution: The Remarkable British Upheaval That Inspired America's Founding Fathers” by Michael Barone goes back to 90 years before the American Revolution. The author argues that the Glorious Revolution of 1688 was critical in how the founding fathers thought about the rights of Englishmen, and thus the Glorious Revolution was really our first revolution.

The book starts off with broad strokes of history, covering major events in the early 1600s in central and northern Europe. This was a time of the Catholic counter revolution. In 1590 about half of Europe was Protestant. By 1690 only about a fifth of Europe was Protestant. Many nations were led by dominating kings, for example Louis XIV. As King of France he ruled the richest country in Europe with 20 million people. William of Orange wanted to keep the United Provinces Protestant. He dedicated much of his life to thwarting the attempts of Louis XIV to extent the power of the Catholic Church and of France.

Michael Barone explores in detail the leaders of England and the Netherlands. In the 1640s England had killed Charles I, and then grudgingly brought his son Charles II back as king. Charles II was a relaxed king who didn’t want to rock the boat.

His brother James II took over after Charles died. James was Catholic in a 98% Protestant England. He wanted to convert the nation. The nation didn’t want to be converted. He tried to manipulate the government organizations by determining who voted. He put in Catholics as officers in the army and as judges. Finally several people asked William of Orange, whose wife was next in line, to come take over. William jumped at the chance and invaded, but a war never happened. The majority of Englishman sat back to see what would happen. Most of the rest joined William’s side and James II quickly realized he was history, and escaped to the continent.

Our First Revolution” is well written. I read the book in just a couple hours. I learned a lot. The book was hard to put down. If you enjoy early American history, then check out this book. I strongly recommend it.

Technorati tags: , , Michael Barone, Glorious Revolution

1 comment:

Susan said...

Barone's book sounds really interesting. I think he was giving an interview about this book on c-span and I wish I hadn't kept clicking through the channels.

We have been listening to McCullough's John Adams biography and really appreciating it. I always like primary sources.