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1688: A Global History

3.43  ·  Rating details ·  218 ratings  ·  29 reviews
John E. Wills's masterful history ushers us into the worlds of 1688, from the suicidal exaltation of Russian Old Believers to the ravishing voice of the haiku poet Basho. Witness the splendor of the Chinese imperial court as the Kangxi emperor publicly mourns the death of his grandmother and shrewdly consolidates his power. Join the great caravans of Muslims on their annua ...more
Paperback, 348 pages
Published January 17th 2002 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 2001)
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Average rating 3.43  · 
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M. D.  Hudson
Jul 31, 2009 rated it really liked it
Fine popular history book. Clearly written and compellingly organized. It didn't launch me into orbit or anything, but I do recommend it. ...more
Bob Newman
Jan 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
excellent idea, excellent execution

When I was in 9th grade we had "World History"--that is, we studied ancient Egypt, the Fertile Crescent, Greece, Rome, the Middle Ages in Europe, the Renaissance, England, France, and the discovery and conquest of the Americas. I guess world history came to an end when white people settled in California. But Africa, South America, Australia, the Pacific Islands, India, China, Japan, the Islamic world, and Eastern Europe plus Russia? Forget it. I remember India
Nicholas Whyte
Nov 04, 2017 rated it liked it

This is an interesting concept - looking at a single year and the political events of the entire world that happened in that year, casting the net as widely as possible to capture every continent. Of course in the home archipelago this is the year of the so-called Glorious Revolution, in which the Catholic James II of England and VII of Scotland was overthrown by a suspicious Protestant elite; in the eastern Mediterranean, the Venetians and Austrians we
Dec 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In 1688, Louis XIV was the Sun King of France (Sun as the source of light and warmth, not the center of the universe, which was not yet the politically correct viewpoint). After his wife died, he secretly married Marquise de Maintenon, the tutor of his children by his mistress, a pious Catholic, and revoked the Edict of Nantes that guaranteed religious freedom to Protestants, although his second wife's influence on this decision has been exaggerated. Hundreds of thousands of Protestants illegall ...more
May 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
I like this kind of thing. The year in question is mostly known to history for events in Europe that more or less defined the shape of the modern world, in particular the 'Glorious Revolution' in England. Wills takes a global perspective, showing the interconnections between events as far distant from each other as Edo and the Hague. He tells the story well, though at times (particularly in his treatment of Ottoman decline from the sixteenth to the seventeenth century) he forces the pace to the ...more
Apr 20, 2010 rated it liked it
Gets to a 3+ for me. I like the notion of packing global history for a single year into a single book and Willis finds a lot of detail and information that I hadn't read before. The international context is pretty compelling and he's got an excellent writing style for this kind of social history. Where it doesn't work for me is that a lot of the information comes across as vignettes, presumably due to the publisher's desired page count. There isn't enough backdrop to really follow one series of ...more
Norman Smith
Jul 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of those books that I wish were longer, unlike most which I think could be improved by being shorter. It is a collection of vignettes that describe events all over the Earth in 1688, tied together rather loosely. There are no big themes; this is about what was happening, not why.

My regret that it wasn't longer comes on two paths. First, I would have liked a bit more detail in some of the vignettes, more background and more "what happened next". Also, there were a few places that he d
Kevin O'Connell
Feb 17, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The book's title ought to be:

Random Stories About Stuff that Happened Around 1688:
A Very Incomplete Geography of the World.

Peeved mostly because the idea could have been developed into some useful world survey, yet it served up nothing but trivia---at least for the first 100 pages. Couldn't stand wasting more time to see if this actually had a point somewhere.
Dec 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: culture-history
I let several years lapse in the middle of reading this book. When I got back to it, my bookmark was still in place, and the individual chapters don't really build on each other so it was easy enough to pick up where I left off. ...more
Jim Manis
Oct 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
History focused on a single year.

Focusses on a year in world history that many see as the birth of the modern age. Easy to read by the general public. High school reading level. Covers a number of important women as well as men.
Oct 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
An interesting way to look at world history--by date (one single year) rather than by region. I know we generally look at history chronologically, but the whole world in one year was quite different. I quite enjoyed it, and learned a lot about less-well studied (less Eurocentric) areas.
Jun 02, 2022 rated it liked it
Praise to the author for taking on a tough job and doing it competently. In the end though,this is a format that I found unsatisfying.
Diana Rodrigues
May 28, 2020 rated it liked it
Interesse/comoção: 2
Escrita e estrutura: 3
Aprendizagem: 3
Doris Raines
Dec 20, 2019 rated it liked it
John Welsh
Feb 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful piece of popular history - endlessly readable, packed with information and reliable in its judgements. Some might consider it Eurocentric, since Europe and Europeans take up more than half of the page-count in a purported Global History, but - since it describes the world at the point when Europe established its impending two-century global hegemony - that seems legitimate.
hardcover and dustjacket

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments xi
January 3, 1688: A Baroque Prelude 1 (8)

The Empire of Silver
13 (19)

Many Africas
32 (13)

Slaves, Ships, and Frontiers
45 (15)

Dampier and the Aborigines
60 (7)

The Cape of Good Hope
69 (5)

The Island World
74 (13)

87 (6)

Tsar Peter's Russia
Jul 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book is an interesting conceit -- vignettes from around the world in a single momentous year. Although there are some 'famous' names (kings, scientists, philosophers, etc), many of the players are less eminent: local officials, poets, travellers, businessmen, religious leaders. John Wills, who teaches history at USC, is a very fine prose stylist who has consulted a great many primary sources which are not available to the general public: records of the Dutch East India Company, Jesuit memor ...more
Mar 25, 2011 rated it liked it
I really wanted to like this book. Wills has crafted a competent overview of the state of affairs in 1688, picked a number of cities and famous people and introduces them without much overlapping in separate chapters. Among other things we learn about the Spanish dealings in the New World, struggles between Protestants and Catholics in Western Europe, the coming of Tsar Peter in Russia, the slave trade along the West African coast, court politics under the Kangxi Emperor and we follow the faithf ...more
May 23, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
Wills does a creditable job of reporting what Europeans wrote about various parts of the world in 1688, but the book obviously suffers from a lack of indigenous writing. In writing about West Africa, for example, he writes, “We are disproportionately dependent of Europeans feeling their way along the coast of Africa.”
Chapter 21: The World of the Great Sultan” talks of the decaying of the Ottoman empire. It contains an excellent excerpt of an autobiography of Osman Agha, a practicing Muslm from
David Hill
Mar 20, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This book is more or less a collection of vignettes about what was happening all over the world at the end of the 17th century. For the most part, each little story is about one person. To get any sense of what that person was up to in 1688, it is necessary to tell what happened before and after that year, so it's not specifically about 1688.

None of the stories are about the natives of the Americas, Africa, or Australia as those peoples lacked the written word. So what we learn about those folks
Apr 07, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, nonfiction
The title tells it all, really. The year 1688 is probably best known (amongst those who have studied British history, that is, not me) as the year of the Glorious Revolution. This book touches on that, of course, but it also tries to give a fairly complete snapshot of life pretty much everywhere else in the world at the same point in history. It's very interesting to compare the same year in Edo, Australia, Mexico, and Paris. Of course, it's all very brief, but I did kind of like that. Consideri ...more
Dan Harvey
May 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting enough, the book takes a broad look at what was happening in the world in the year 1688. I'm not entirely sure why the year 1688 was chosen - there was the Glorious Revolution in England, but otherwise no one particular thing stood out as world-changing. I appreciated the authour's attempt to provide a glimpse into what was happening in all corners of the globe, not just the usual European powers. A neat idea, but I think limited by the intrinsic interesting-ness of the year itself. ...more
Jan 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
A series of historical vignettes from a pivotal year in world history. Wills examines cultural commonalities (and differences) in an increasingly interconnected globe, emphasizing the intercultural exchange in material goods and ideas that came to define the eighteenth century. Astonishing in its breadth and ambition, and fascinating in its detail.
Jan 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! The more international a history book gets, the more i like it. I was fascinated by the concept of taking a single year and telling what's going on in the world in that particular year. The writer does a great work in making you "feel" the history. ...more
Kim Loughran
Jan 21, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: abandoned
A marvellous idea and intriguing choices. Just not well enough written to reain my interest.
Aug 16, 2008 rated it did not like it
A hodgepodge of information with little synthesis or over-arching interpretive unity.
Mar 12, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
Competent, readable survey of world history in 1688, with an interesting further reading section. Not much depth, though.
Gabriel Aguirre
Nov 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
I was privileged enough to know the man and sit under his teaching. I read this book when it was just his manuscript.
Kate Schindler
Sep 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Reads like fiction.
Hugo Vergara
rated it liked it
May 13, 2018
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“The word “baroque” originating as a Portuguese term for the peculiar beauty of a deformed, uneven pearl, suggests a range of artistic styles in which the balance and harmony of the Renaissance styles are abandoned for imbalance, free elaboration of form, playful gesture, and surprising allusion, through which the most intense of emotions and the darkest of realities may be glimpsed, their power enhanced by the glittering surface that partially conceals them.” 0 likes
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