Cover image for 1688 : a global history
1688 : a global history
Wills, John E. (John Elliot), 1936-
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Norton, [2001]

Physical Description:
xii, 330 pages : illustrations, map ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
D246 .W55 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



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 annual pilgrimage from Damascus and Cairo to Mecca. Walk the pungent streets of Amsterdam and enter the Rasp House, where vagrants, beggars, and petty criminals labored to produce powdered brazilwood for the dyeworks.

Through these stories and many others, Wills paints a detailed picture of how the global connections of power, money, and belief were beginning to lend the world its modern form.

Author Notes

John E. Wills Jr. is professor of history at the University of Southern California and the author of many acclaimed works in cultural history.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Wills invites history buffs and armchair adventurers to immerse themselves in the various social, political, and artistic contexts that existed in the year 1688. Offering a refreshing global perspective rather than an overworked Westernized viewpoint, the author has researched and related a wide range of fascinating true stories illustrating the developing links between cultures and nations. Taken individually, these tales from Russia, China, Japan, Africa, Europe, and the Americas provide tantalizing glimpses into a series of unique environments; analyzed collectively, they provide a panoramic view of a world poised on the brink of a major transformation. Stylish, anecdotal history chronicling the infancy of an interdependent global community. --Margaret Flanagan

Publisher's Weekly Review

Although he realizes that "the very concept of the world in a single year is an artificial one," USC historian Wills (Mountain of Fame: Portraits in Chinese History; etc.) has merged cultural anthropology and history to reflect through the prism of a single year the shape of the world poised on the edge of modernity. This ambitious effort has a number of strengthsÄsuch as the quality of its writing and its ability to weave together disparate narrative threads. But for many readers, this account's greatest strength will be what it is notÄEurocentric, limited by gender and ethnicity, confined by class. It touches on events in Africa, the New World, China, Japan, Australia and eastern and western Europe. We go from the world of the Kangxi emperor in China to that of an African Muslim slave in the New World. In constructing this multifarious history, Wills draws on sources as diverse as the correspondence of far-flung Jesuit missionaries, the records of the Dutch and English trading companies, contemporary poetry, diaries and even a ketubah (a Jewish marriage contract). Wills thus succeeds in producing a vivid picture of life in 1688Äa picture filled with terrifying violence, frightening diseases and religious and political persecution, but also with comfortingly familiar human kindnesses, familial affections and the scientific and intellectual achievements of Leibniz, Locke and Newton, among others. Wills provides a satisfying, many-faceted tour of the world in 1688 that will appeal to readers with a far-ranging curiosity about the world and its history. Illus. not seen by PW. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Wills (history, Univ. of Southern California; Mountain of Fame: Portraits in Chinese History) has fashioned a wide-ranging, serendipitous collection of histories and accounts centered around 1688. The year occurred during a period of unprecedented exploration and exchange of ideas, and the book is at its best revealing these "global intersections." The author details Englishman William Dampier's observations of the Australian Aborigines, German herbalist Georg Everard Rumpf's studies of Indonesian plant life, Scots general Patrick Ivanovich Gordon's exploits in Imperial Russia, and Flemish Jesuit Ferdinand Verbiest's experiences in Beijing (the Society of Jesus' willingness to accept Confucianism as a secular tradition is particularly intriguing). However, passages lacking this cross-cultural perspective tend to flag, reading like anecdotal prefaces to weightier studies for which the reader will have to resort to the bibliography. The brief passages on the personal and literary struggles of Aphra Behn in England and Sor Juana Ins de la Cruz in Mexico, for example, would have been improved had the two women been examined together. Nevertheless, Wills makes the most of the freedom afforded by the arbitrariness of his selections and covers a great deal of intellectual as well as geographical territory. Recommended for academic libraries.DRichard Koss, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Rather than attempting a grand processional across time, Wills uses particular people as dramatis personae to engage the "many worlds of human experience within the one geographical world of 1688." It is an exercise in "serendipity, surprise, and letting one thing lead you to another" that takes him from Central America and Western Australia to the courts of Versailles and Westminster, as well as to the edges of darkest Africa. Throughout, he engages a central metaphor of the baroque as "contradiction and its partial, playful reconciliation." Wills is not afraid to leap across the centuries from 1688: world trade routes compared with the electronic networks; the geopolitical significance of Russia's expansion across Asia in the l7th century; the origins of modern Japan; the relationship between England's "Glorious Revolution" and parliamentary democracies worldwide; the connections between the "baroque style and sensibility" of the Dutch East India Company and "the intricacies of early modern capitalism"--and the unnatural function of the stock market! Wills eschews footnotes for efficient summaries of principal sources for each chapter. Highly recommended for the general reader and all libraries, but inappropriate for formal coursework at any level. B. Osborne Queen's University at Kingston

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. X
Acknowledgmentsp. XI
January 3, 1688: A Baroque Preludep. 1
Part I. A World of Wooden Shipsp. 9
1. The Empire of Silverp. 13
2. Many Africasp. 32
3. Slaves, Ships, and Frontiersp. 45
4. Dampier and the Aboriginesp. 60
Part II. The World of the Great Companyp. 67
5. The Cape of Good Hopep. 69
6. The Island Worldp. 74
7. Phaulkonp. 87
Part III. Three Worlds Apart: Russia, China, Japanp. 93
8. Tsar Peter's Russiap. 95
9. Survivors and Visionariesp. 105
10. At the Court of Kangxip. 113
11. The Jesuits and Chinap. 128
12. Kanazawa, Edo, Nagasakip. 145
13. Saikaku and Bashop. 158
Part IV. Versailles, London, Amsterdamp. 167
14. The Sun King and the Ladiesp. 169
15. A Family Quarrel and a Glorious Revolutionp. 180
16. Echoes across the Oceansp. 195
17. A Hundred Years of Freedomp. 207
Part V. Worlds of Words: Styles and Thought in Europep. 219
18. In the Republic of Lettersp. 223
19. Aphra Behnp. 237
20. Newton, Locke, and Leibnizp. 242
Part VI. Islam and its Othersp. 253
21. The World of the Great Sultanp. 255
22. Meccap. 269
23. Hindus and Muslimsp. 276
24. Englishmen, Indians, and Othersp. 285
Part VII. Exile, Hope, and Familyp. 293
25. Next Year in Jerusalemp. 295
26. O Well Is Theep. 302
Sources and Further Readingp. 305
Creditsp. 315
Indexp. 317