REVIEWED: Rebellion


Rebellion by Peter Ackroyd (English History, 2017).

Of late, noted author Peter Ackroyd has been producing books on the history of England. This volume centers on the hectic and unstable seventeenth century, a time of constant political maneuverings, double-dealing and turmoil (both domestic and in foreign relations). There was one outright Civil War, the execution of one deposed king, an experiment in government solely by Parliament, a virtual military dictatorship, the restoration of monarchy and finally a much less violent rebellion to topple another unpopular ruler, bringing on the ultimate collapse of the Stuart family dynasty.

Intrigue, corruption and conflict were more the order of the day than anything else–along with years of bad harvests, religious war and oppression.

Yet it was also a time of rich cultural developments and changes (economic, artistic, spiritual and philosophical, among others). The period opened with Shakespeare in mid-career with figures the likes of Ben Jonson, Inigo Jones, John Donne, Milton, Issac Newton, Thomas Hobbes and Samuel Pepys soon to make their marks.

It was a time of chronic upheaval, religious conflict at home and abroad, and innovations that reshaped almost every aspect of life in England and in the broader United Kingdom. Ackroyd does a masterful job in putting it all in prospective, and sorting through the tangled events from the crowning of James I, the overthrow and death of his son through the years of the Protectorate, the restoration of the Stuart line and its ultimate/permanent fall in the uprising known today as the Glorious Revolution.

It’s all here and the author allows one to see figures such as the various scheming royals and Oliver Cromwell as flawed but real people rather than historical cliches.

Overall, an excellent book on a fascinating if often unpleasant time.


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