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The Awful End of Prince William the Silent: The First Assassination of a…

by Lisa Jardine

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1768117,685 (3.25)4
The illustrious 'Making History Series' explores an eclectic mix of history's tipping points. In 'The Awful End of Prince William the Silent', the first assassination of a head of state with a hand-held gun is discussed.
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An interesting short history of a significant event in Dutch (and European) history of which I doubt many Americans are aware -- the first assassination of a head of state by a handgun. Religion (the Protestant states of Holland seeking independence from Spanish Roman Catholicism) plays a large role here. While Jardine explicates the actual event and its direct consequences expertly, and her musings on assassinations, guns, and fear are interesting, the book is not "big" enough to fully support some of her attempts to bring in public interest through comparisons to the Palestinian statehood effort and the post-9/11 security/fear/propaganda matrix. Nonetheless an excellent guide to an event which is worthy of some thought, particularly in light of recent shootings. ( )
  louistb | Jun 24, 2013 |
In some ways this is less about the actual assassination of William the Silent than about the context of his death, including the means (the relatively new wheel-lock pistol), the political climate, and the religious conflicts of 16th-century Europe. The assassination itself occupies a very small portion of this volume.

Those who did not take a survey course on European or British history or the Rennaisance, or those who had trouble understanding the political machinations that preceded those fictionalized in Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle, will find the first chapter useful; it provides a not-too-dry overview of the Protestant/Catholic conflicts, particularly in relation to the Low Countries. Chapter 2 treats the murder itself. After that, the order of the book is puzzling. It backtracks to discuss a previous attempt on William's life, then a discourse on the history and characteristics of the wheel-lock pistol, then two chapters with non-linear chronologies on Elizabeth I, followed by primary sources in the appendices (most notably, the fatwa against William issued by Phillip II).

The chapters that actually narrate daily events are more interesting than the chapters that present a broader historical portrait; the latter suffer as all surveys do from being a blur of names and policies. That the text is not chronological adds some confusion and difficulty orienting oneself. The author's comparisons of the events to contemporary political conflicts, while interesting, might better have been served up as a final chapter that emphasized both the historical import of the assassination and its contemporary relevance. Still and all, this was an enjoyable book, and I'll watch for more from Lisa Jardine in the future. ( )
3 vote OshoOsho | Mar 30, 2013 |
Interesting take on how modern handguns changed politics and head of state security measures. The assassination of William of Orange is described in great detail, though not with the greatest precision (many a reader will walk away thinking Antwerp is a Dutch city). The perspective is unabashedly Anglo-centric, and it did feel odd to be informed almost exclusively about the repercussions on English politics of a fact that impacted millions of people on the Continent. Generally it felt like a university paper that was turned into a short book because it couldn't decide whether it was going to have the assassination of William of Orange as its topic, or the invention, mechanics and impact of modern handguns. ( )
  fist | Jan 5, 2013 |
Cheap at best. No ideas. Nothing. It says that William tried to keep the rebels side unified. What were the conflicts among the rebels. She says almost nothing about this and hence leaves one of his contributions in the dark. William's military efforts ended in failure .Yet the rebels were able to keep Holland and Zeeland as a stable homeland. How? No answer at all. What was the role of Calvinism in all this. She does not say. She does not mention that the Dutch themselves played a significant role in the rebellion but this is barely mentioned.
Over and over again she talks about how a pistol can be hidden. I got that the first time. ( )
2 vote pnorman4345 | Jul 4, 2011 |
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The illustrious 'Making History Series' explores an eclectic mix of history's tipping points. In 'The Awful End of Prince William the Silent', the first assassination of a head of state with a hand-held gun is discussed.

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