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A Gambling Man: Charles II's Restoration Game Hardcover – November 24, 2009

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (November 24, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374281378
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374281373
  • Product Dimensions: 1.4 x 6.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,020,183 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The first 10 years of the Restoration unfold in this galloping narrative by Uglow, a skillful author of many British histories. Revolving around the figure of Charles II, it plays up why the Restoration was regarded as a time of risk and glamour, as manifested in the courtesans Charles kept, the courtiers he favored, and the theaters he loved to attend. The resulting gossip permeates Uglow’s lively prose, but she is no writer drawn to the merely meretricious. Uglow perceptively connects the show to the underlying political tensions of the era. The extravagant expenses of his court and a war with the Dutch accentuated the power struggle between crown and Parliament, which, when not rumbling over money, kept battling over issues left over from the interregnum dealing with religion and withproperty confiscated from royalists. To top things off, the 1660s were the decade plague and fire devastated London. In Uglow’s estimation, Charles was a risk-taking but shrewd navigator of roisterous times and well worth reading about; her audience will enthusiastically agree. --Gilbert Taylor


Praise for The Lunar Men

“The warmth of friendship and the intoxicating fizz of discovery make [The Lunar Men] irresistible reading.” —Lev Grossman, Time

The Lunar Men is a grand story . . . Jenny Uglow’s magnificent group history chronicles a last great upsurge of the all-embracing Renaissance spirit . . . Start reading some evening when the moon is full.” —Michael Dirda, The Washington Post Book World

“A playful, exuberant book.” —Richard Eder, The New York Times

“An absolute wonder of a book, huge in its span and close in its detail, nothing less than a snapshot of what and who was best about Britain and its intellectual life in the middle of the eighteenth century.” —The Economist

“An absorbing and rich account of the dreams and determination of the engineers of the first Industrial Revolution.” —Brian Dolan, The Times Literary Supplement

“Excellent and fascinating . . . [Uglow is] a serious and enthralling writer.” —P. N. Furbank, The New York Review of Books

“[A] majestic study in camaraderie and intellectual kinship in eighteenth century Britain . . . Uglow excels with the charming detail and the telling fact.” —Matthew Price, The Boston Globe

“[Uglow] evokes vividly the state of science and technology on the eve of the industrial revolution.” —Scientific American

“Jenny Uglow [is a] learned biographer and an effervescent historian, a discoverer of extraordinary facts.” —Gaby Wood, The Observer (London)

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Customer Reviews

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The Great Fire of London which in 1666 destroyed five/sixth of the city.
C. M Mills
She does an excellent job of presenting scholarship in a way that non-academics (as well as academics) can learn from and enjoy.
Loves the View
Uglow reveals the very foundation of the relationship between government, parliament and private enterprise.
B. Bennetts

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Glenn E. Stambaugh on December 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Arguably the most eventful decade in English history, the first years of the Restoration witnessed the Great Fire of London, the last major outbreak of plague, the birth of science and the Royal Society, the greatest flowering of English theater between the Elizabethans and modern times, the last age of epic poetry (Paradise Lost) and the first simple English prose (Pilgrim's Progess), and the foundation of a stable constitutional monarchy after a century of absolutism followed by two decades of civil war, dictatorship and near-anarchy. At the center of it all stood Charles II: "loved by his parents, brought up as the adored eldest son in a luxurious court until jolt after jolt shattered the idyll. At twelve he stood by his father [at] the unthinkable turning of subjects against their king. At [the battle of] Edgehill a cannonball narrowly missed him. At fifteen he was sent west as general of the Western Army; at sixteen he fled to France. He was nineteen when his father was executed. In the years that followed he scoured foreign courts for aid, broke and hopeless." Yet at 30, he returned triumphantly and peacefully to England, and reigned until his death in bed twenty five years later. His brother and successor James ruled less than three years before losing the throne to revolution.

How did Charles succeed where his father and brother failed miserably, and more than succeed as a ruler, savor life to the fullest? "In exile, he devised a strategy based on charm, outward compliance and private evasion," writes author Jenny Uglow. "It is a challenge for someone like me, whose sympathy lies with the radicals and artisans protesting against abuse of power, to venture into the center, the heart of that power. Yet it is alluring.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By C. M Mills on January 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Charles II (reigned from 1660-1685) was the son of Charles I who had been executed by the Cromwellians on January 30, 1649. After the regicide of his father
the young Charles fled to the Continent after many exciting escapes from Roundhead forces. After the death of Oliver Cromwell his son Richard proved to be an incompetent ruler. The Parliament and people clamoured for Charles to return from exile. He became the King and the Restoration era was begun.
There were many momentous events during the reign of the merry monarch including:
1. The Plague which devastated London in 1665.
2. The Great Fire of London which in 1666 destroyed five/sixth of the city.
3. Three naval wars against the Dutch. The issue was trade and control of the seas.
4. Higher taxation of the populace needed to fight Charles' wars.
5. Continued religious controversy and persecution. Dissenters and Quakers were imprisoned. The Church of England was the official religion. Charles converted to Roman Catholicism on his deathbed following the faith of his brother James II (who short inglorious reign was from 1685-1688).
6. The founding of the Royal Society and the growing interest in science. Men like Sir Isaac Newton and Christopher Wren the architect of St. Paul's flourished during this reign.
7. Charles became unpopular when it was learned he had received a hefty bribe from Louis XIV of France. Despite being a member of the Triple Alliance of Holland, Sweden and England which was Protestant, Charles was a crypto-Roman Catholic.
The personality of Charles II? He was a rake. Charles sired countless illegitimate children and had a whole cadre of willing mistresses. Among the most famous were the actress Nell Gwynn and the notorious Barbara Villiers Lady Castlemaine.
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Format: Hardcover
.. than Charles II.'

On 25 May 1660, Charles II arrived at Dover, disembarking in front of cheering crowds. On his thirtieth birthday, 29 May 1660, he entered London. Charles had been invited home to England by parliament, thus beginning the `restoration' of the monarchy after eleven years of republican rule. In this book, Jenny Uglow focuses on the first ten years of his reign, until the signing of the secret Treaty of Dover in 1670.

Initially, I found it disconcerting to consider only the first ten years of Charles II's 25 year reign. Certainly, the first ten years saw a number of momentous events including the Plague in 1665 and the Great Fire of London in 1666 which led to the substantial rebuilding of the city of London. Charles was also a patron of science: the Royal Society was founded in November 1660. On the foreign policy front, England was at war with the Dutch (the Second Anglo-Dutch War) between 1665 and 1667. This war ended in a Dutch victory and also, some years later, in Charles's secret treaty with Louis XIV of France. Charles undertook to support the French against the Dutch in return for which he received subsidies from France, thereby providing some room in his relationship with parliament. Charles also undertook to convert to Catholicism at a time of his choosing. More broadly, Charles's reign saw the rise of colonisation and trade in India, the East Indies and America - New York was captured from the Dutch in 1664.

But was he a gambling man? Certainly the stakes were high, especially when his reign is compared with that of his father (Charles I was beheaded in 1649) and his brother (James II was overthrown in the Glorious Revolution in 1688). But Charles was not reckless.
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