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Inventing Freedom : How the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World
by Daniel Hannan


Overview -

Why does the world speak English? Why does every country at least pretend to aspire to representative government, personal freedom, and an independent judiciary?

In The New Road to Serfdom, British politician Daniel Hannan exhorted Americans not to abandon the principles that have made our country great.  Read more...


 
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Overview

Why does the world speak English? Why does every country at least pretend to aspire to representative government, personal freedom, and an independent judiciary?

In The New Road to Serfdom, British politician Daniel Hannan exhorted Americans not to abandon the principles that have made our country great. Inventing Freedom is a much more ambitious account of the historical origin and spread of those principles, and their role in creating a sphere of economic and political liberty that is as crucial as it is imperiled.

According to Hannan, the ideas and institutions we consider essential to maintaining and preserving our freedoms--individual rights, private property, the rule of law, and the institutions of representative government--are not broadly "Western" in the usual sense of the term. Rather they are the legacy of a very specific tradition, one that was born in England and that we Americans, along with other former British colonies, inherited.

The first English kingdoms, as they emerged from the Dark Ages, already had unique characteristics that would develop into what we now call constitutional government. By the tenth century, a thousand years before most modern countries, England was a nation-state whose people were already starting to define themselves with reference to inherited common-law rights.

The story of liberty is the story of how that model triumphed. How, repressed after the Norman Conquest, it reasserted itself; how it developed during the civil wars of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries into the modern liberal-democratic tradition; how it was enshrined in a series of landmark victories--the Magna Carta, the English Civil War, the Glorious Revolution, the U.S. Constitution--and how it came to defeat every international rival.

Yet there was nothing inevitable about it. Anglosphere values could easily have been snuffed out in the 1940s. And they would not be ascendant today if the Cold War had ended differently.

Today we see those ideas abandoned and scorned in the places where they once went unchallenged. The current U.S. president, in particular, seems determined to deride and traduce the Anglosphere values that the Founders took for granted. Inventing Freedom explains why the extraordinary idea that the state was the servant, not the ruler, of the individual evolved uniquely in the English-speaking world. It is a chronicle of the success of Anglosphere exceptionalism. And it is offered at a time that may turn out to be the end of the age of political freedom.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780062231734
  • ISBN-10: 0062231731
  • Publisher: Broadside Books
  • Publish Date: November 2013
  • Page Count: 416

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Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2013-11-11
  • Reviewer: Staff

Hannan, a well-known conservative writer and politician in Great Britain, tells the story of English contributions to the modern world and the rise of what he calls the "Anglosphere." He determines the English-speaking world to have an exceptional "conception of liberty" that he surveys throughout the book. In clear and informed language Hannan revisits the special contributions of Protestant faith and parliamentary machinery, defending the ownership of property against Marxist arguments. He explains with verve the constitutional "defense against arbitrary government" beginning with the Magna Carta and other legal protections that citizens in Britain, the United States, Canada, and Australia today take for granted. He highlights the community advantages of religious tradition and Episcopalian latitude. Along the way we learn about some unusual things, including the failed 1698 effort of Scotland to establish its own colonial empire. Hannan's book adds up to an entertaining, readable narrative of English triumphs in law, religion, and freedom and celebrates the Anglosphere's "sublime tradition." At the finish, he encourages his readers to act as stewards of their rich legacy. (Dec.)

 
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