Edmund Burke: The First Conservative

Edmund Burke: The First Conservative

by Jesse Norman


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A provocative biography of Edmund Burke, the underappreciated founder of modern conservatism

Edmund Burke is both the greatest and the most underrated political thinker of the past three hundred years. A brilliant 18th-century Irish philosopher and statesman, Burke was a fierce champion of human rights and the Anglo-American constitutional tradition, and a lifelong campaigner against arbitrary power. Once revered by an array of great Americans including Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, Burke has been almost forgotten in recent years. But as politician and political philosopher Jesse Norman argues in this penetrating biography, we cannot understand modern politics without him.

As Norman reveals, Burke was often ahead of his time, anticipating the abolition of slavery and arguing for free markets, equality for Catholics in Ireland, responsible government in India, and more. He was not always popular in his own lifetime, but his ideas about power, community, and civic virtue have endured long past his death. Indeed, Burke engaged with many of the same issues politicians face today, including the rise of ideological extremism, the loss of social cohesion, the dangers of the corporate state, and the effects of revolution on societies. He offers us now a compelling critique of liberal individualism, and a vision of society based not on a self-interested agreement among individuals, but rather on an enduring covenant between generations.

Burke won admirers in the American colonies for recognizing their fierce spirit of liberty and for speaking out against British oppression, but his greatest triumph was seeing through the utopian aura of the French Revolution. In repudiating that revolution, Burke laid the basis for much of the robust conservative ideology that remains with us to this day: one that is adaptable and forward-thinking, but also mindful of the debt we owe to past generations and our duty to preserve and uphold the institutions we have inherited. He is the first conservative.

A rich, accessible, and provocative biography, Edmund Burke describes Burke's life and achievements alongside his momentous legacy, showing how Burke's analytical mind and deep capacity for empathy made him such a vital thinker-both for his own age, and for ours.thread on pub day of what people at basic like about it (editors)

"You won't find a more impressive political philosopher than the 18th-century MP who more or less invented Anglosphere conservatism. And you won't find a pithier, more readable treatise on his life and works than this one." —Wall Street Journal

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780465062935
Publisher: Basic Books
Publication date: 04/28/2015
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 578,070
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 13 - 18 Years

About the Author

Jesse Norman, MP, studied at Oxford University and took his master's and doctorate in philosophy from University College London. He has been an honorary fellow at UCL, a governor of the UK National Institute of Economic and Social Research, and a visiting fellow at All Souls College, Oxford. His previous books include the widely acclaimed Edmund Burke: The First Conservative.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations vii

Introduction 1

Part 1 Life

1 An Irishman Abroad, 1730-1759 9

2 In and Out of Power, 1759-1774 37

3 Ireland, America and King Mob, 1774-1780 72

4 India, Economical Reform and the King's Madness, 1780-1789 102

5 Reflecting on Revolution, 1789-1797 134

Part 2 Thought

6 Reputation, Reason and the Enlightenment Project 171

7 The Social Self 192

8 Forging Modem Politics 215

9 The Rise of Liberal Individualism 237

10 The Recovery of Value 257

Conclusion: Burke Today 278

Notes 290

Select Bibliography 299

Acknowledgements 306

Index 309

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