1688 and the Historians

Charles Wilson sets the scene for a special issue celebrating the tercentenary of the Glorious Revolution and England's 'Dutch Connection'.

After the Armistice of 1918, Adolph Max, the heroic burgomaster of Brussels, declared that the Allies had achieved not merely a victory, but 'a victory of the future over the past'.

The same might be said of William III's successful 'descent on England'. Like every great turning point it can be interpreted only in the light of its context – past and future. The past included the alliance with the Netherlands rebels, into which Queen Elizabeth had reluctantly entered a century earlier, then three naval wars, the fruit of economic and maritime rivalry. English frustration at their inability to catch up with the Dutch, let alone master them, drove successive English governments, republican and royalist, into wars; the results varied from drawn games (in 1654) to disaster in 1667 and 1674.

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