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Summary

In 1649, Britain was engulfed by revolution. 

On a raw January afternoon, the Stuart king, Charles I, was executed for treason. Within weeks, the English monarchy had been abolished and the ‘useless and dangerous’ House of Lords discarded. The people, it was announced, were now the sovereign force in the land. What this meant, and where it would lead, no one knew.

The Restless Republic is the story of the extraordinary decade that followed. It takes as its guides the people who lived through those years. Among them is Anna Trapnel, the daughter of a Deptford shipwright whose visions transfixed the nation. John Bradshaw, the Cheshire lawyer who found himself trying the king. Marchamont Nedham, the irrepressible newspaper man and puppet master of propaganda. Gerrard Winstanley, who strove for a utopia of common ownership where no one went hungry. William Petty, the precocious scientist whose mapping of Ireland prefaced the dispossession of tens of thousands. And the indomitable Countess of Derby, who defended to the last the final Royalist stronghold on the Isle of Man.

The Restless Republic ranges from London to Leith, Cornwall to Connacht, from the corridors of power to the common fields and hillsides. Gathering her cast of trembling visionaries and banished royalists, dextrous mandarins and bewildered bystanders, Anna Keay brings to vivid life the most extraordinary and experimental decade in Britain’s history. It is the story of how these tempestuous years set the British Isles on a new course, and of what happened when a conservative people tried revolution.

©2022 Anna Keay (P)2022 HarperCollins Publishers Limited

Critic reviews

"An exceptional book about an exceptional time." (John Adamson)

"Anna Keay has rescued a period of history which for many will have been uncharted territory.... An imaginative triumph." (A. N. Wilson)

"Deft, confident, deeply learned and provocative." (Rory Stewart)

What listeners say about The Restless Republic

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Beautifully written and brilliantly read

Having listened to many history audiobooks The Restless Republic stands out for the accessibility of the content, immersive writing and perfect performance by the narrator.
I was thoroughly engaged throughout and left wanting more. Fantastic history book covering a much neglected era in uk history, brilliantly presented.

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very interesting

found this book surprisingly good, as good as any fictional book. Interesting glimpses into all sorts of people.

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Fascinating mix of stories

Provided a really interesting overview of a turbulent period in British history from various different perspectives. Really a part of British history I knew very little about before this book, fascinating to learn more.

Narrator was great too, very clear and easy to listen to.

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Fantastic intro to 1650s

Absolutely loved this book. Loved the view on the interregnum through the eyes of real people. Combined with Keay’s writing which is so accessible for the amateur historian. Such a refreshing perspective on a forgotten interim period dominated by its bookends of wars and restoration and Cromwell. I finished listening and started over again!

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Superb

I have many books about Seventeenth Century history, and it's a long time since I've enjoyed one as much I have this. Anna Keay has taken the lifetime of the republic and introduced us to some of the lesser known personalities of the time, as well as the political and military big hitters, and tells their stories within the tumultuous times. I particular enjoyed learning more about Anne Clarges, future Duchess of Albemarle and wife of General George Monk, much maligned by Samuel Pepys in his diaries. It turns out the nation had much to thank her for.

The narration was excellent too.

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Hard read if you are Irish

The book is a great informer of events, can't fault for details, especially positive is the part played by the women of the day (they get a true voice here). But fundamentally it's a dead narrative, from 1662 history just moves on on its merry course into the future. It fails to tell where we are now and why, it's description of a purely English event and Ireland and Scotland are pariperhy is a fundamental failing of historical narrative. It tends to see the major characters in a positive light, how can there be no bad people in power if extremely bad things happened? There was a reason for the extreme violence in Ireland, not just Cromwell but also the the acceptance of it (no act of oblivion for supporters of the crown in Ireland). Book fails in that simplest of things, the truth, in that what it consignes to the historical past is still with us today (24/05/22 English domestic politics still at play in the Irish Protocol) - But still a great listen.

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Excellent overview

A well paced and very informative presentation of the years following the execution of Charles 1 through the lives of lesser known figures rathe than generals and national political figures. It offers the non-specialist a coherent narrative of a period about which we learn little at school. For me it helped to fill a gap in my understanding of why the Republic failed and the Restoration occurred. It’s also very well read.