The Rise of European Liberalism: An Essay in Interpretation

The Rise of European Liberalism: An Essay in Interpretation

The Rise of European Liberalism: An Essay in Interpretation

The Rise of European Liberalism: An Essay in Interpretation

Excerpt

This book is, in some degree, an historical background to its predecessor, The State in Theory and Practice, which I published last year. Since liberalism has been, in the last four centuries, the outstanding doctrine of Western Civilization, it seemed to me that an account of the factors through which it achieved its pre-eminence would help to explain some, at least, of the difficulties in which we find ourselves at the present time.

The reader will, I hope, take note of the fact that it is essentially an essay. Within a book of this size it is impossible to do more than sketch the main outline of the theme; and I am only too aware that, for adequacy, a much more detailed analysis would be required. The more I have worked at it, the more clearly I have come to understand how much more research is necessary, for example in the relation between law and economic development, or between the social composition of legislatures and their statutes, or again, between the idea of toleration and the economic effects of persecution, before any really full account of the liberal idea can be written. If, however, this preliminary study tempts any reader to examine some of these issues, to undertake, for example, that detailed study of Linguet that is so long overdue, I shall be well content.

My debts, for so small a book, are large. Above all, I am grateful to the members of my graduate seminar at the London School of Economics and Political Science who have helped me by criticism and a sceptical friendliness. What I owe to Professor Tawney's great . . .

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