This intriguing collection of essays is dominated by the figure of Edmund Burke and by accounts of the ways in which he and some of those he influenced understood the revolutionary changes that produced the modern world. The issues of liberty and empire, faction and revolution, universality, equality, authority, sectarian vice and democratic virtue are central here. Dominating them all is the question of how traditional feeling and affection can be retained within the revolutionary and colonial worlds that emerged at the close of the eighteenth century.
The answers to this question emerge from the different interpretations of the American and French Revolutions that were to be so influential for generations after Burke. In addition, he posed the colonial question in Ireland before it was posed more generally. Was liberty compatible with colonial rule? Ultimately, Burke secured his position by his condemnation of colonial as well as revolutionary violence. But in the works of Burke’s contemporaries, especially deTocqueville and Acton, colonial atrocity is condoned or supported while revolutionary violence is condemned out of hand. This, it is argued here, is constitutive of the European anti-revolutionary position which Burke helped to create but to which he nevertheless remains alien.
“Seamus Deane . . . here gathers and updates nine of his previously published essays on the great British philosopher. These generally analyze Burke in comparison with other political philosophers and writers, including Montesquieu, Diderot, Tocqueville, Swift, and Acton. Academic libraries will find this wide-ranging and reasonably priced volume to be useful to undergraduate and graduate students of history and philosophy.” — Catholic Library World
“This volume is a fascinating excursion into the history of ideas with Burke as the centerpiece, and Deane as routier, decoding, translating, and interpreting. The first reading calls for a second, and the second dictates a prominent place on the bookshelf, especially for those disposed to return to Edmund Burke as intellectual and moral guide to the complexities of the present.” — University Bookman