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‘It is hard to write the history of the British Isles in these years as anything other than a success story.’
In reality, nothing about these successes was preordained.
In the mid seventeenth century the British Isles were marginal to Europe. A warring group of islands, frequently the scene of catastrophe, they counted for less than the sum of their parts. Yet, by 1832, the reverse was true. United politically as never before, these isles thrived when their European neighbours were torn by war and revolution.
Recovering from the turmoil of the Civil Wars, these four countries surmounted successive domestic and foreign challenges. They prospered and extended their power throughout the world. This long eighteenth century, so often seen as a prosaic, polite era, must instead be understood as one of dynamic and perilous conflict.
Tracing the political, religious and material cultures of the period, as well as what might have been, Jonathan Clark argues that the set of problems this period poses is of vital importance to the present.