The Road Not Taken: How Britain Narrowly Missed a Revolution 1381-1926
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Britain has not been successfully invaded since 1066; nor, in nearly 1,000 years, has it known a true revolution -- one that brings radical, systemic and enduring change. The contrast with her European neighbours -- with France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece and Russia -- is dramatic. All have been convulsed by external warfare, revolution and civil war -- all have experienced fundamental change to their ruling elites or their social and economic structures.
In The Road Not TakenFrank McLynn investigates the seven occasions when England came closest to revolution: the Peasants' Revolt of 1381, the Jack Cade rising of 1450, the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536, the English Civil War of the 1640s, the Jacobite Rising of 1745-6, the Chartist Movement of 1838-50 and the General Strike of 1926. Mixing narrative and analysis, he vividly recreates each episode and provides compelling explanations of why social turbulence stopped short of revolution.
McLynn takes issue with those who argue that great events do not have great causes -- that they happen not because of some titanic clash of systems -- the bourgeoisie versus the landed aristocracy or the oligarchy versus the gentry -- but because of accident -- the blunders and miscalculations of individual human beings. As well as suggesting causes for these seismic events and reasons for their ultimate collapse, he examines the underlying currents which have allowed England (and, since 1707, Scotland) to enjoy a continuity and stability unknown in almost every other country.