[Empire & Community: Edmund Burke's Writings & Speeches on International Relations]

Article excerpt


Edited by David P. Fidler and Jennifer M. Welch

Boulder CO: Westview, 1999, xv, 353 pp, US$75.00 cloth, US$30 paper (ISBN 081336868294)

Edmund Burke's name does not normally enter discussions of international theory. The editors of Empire and Community argue that it should. Burke's famous anti-revolutionist conservatism bears on central topics of international politics: relations among peoples and states; cultural diversity; national self-determination; free trade; rights, obligations, and the just use of power.

Fidler and Welsh write an accessible yet substantial introductory essay that puts Burke's main letters and speeches on international relations in context. They also describe the relevance of his ideals and moral commitments in relation to the dominant trends in international theory and practice today. What lessons are there in Burke's polemics and activism in late-18th century British parliamentary life? The editors claim that his statements and deeds with respect to British colonial policy in Ireland, America, and India - and hostile reaction to the French Revolution - contain 'food for thought' (p 56) as we confront today's problems. Burke's commitment to the virtues of prudence, historical wisdom, and cultural diversity are manifest throughout the volume and are well worth cultivating in our time.

Other less savoury elements of Burke's legacy are not, however, beyond criticism. …