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Inventing Freedom: How the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World Hardcover – November 19, 2013
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“Hannan’s well-written book is an excellent politically incorrect history of England.” (Washington Free Beacon)
“Equal parts history and political theory, Inventing Freedom is a thought-provoking and stirring read for the holidays.” (The Blaze)
From the Back Cover
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.
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Top Customer Reviews
These values are imbedded so deeply in our culture that they have become part of our subconscious. Because we take them for granted, we often forget to value them as being the foundation of our liberty and prosperity.
I've also lived and worked around the world and have also come to a similar appreciation. English-derived culture and law IS unique in its protection of individual liberty and property rights. The Napoleonic-derived law that governs Continental Europe and its former Latin American Colonies assumes that in criminal matters the accused is guilty until proven innocent. It assumes that individuals have no natural rights to liberty, but are only licensed certain rights by the state. As a result, human rights and property rights are severely constrained.
For example, Latin America, which inherited Spanish and Portuguese law, does not permit individual ownership of subsurface mineral rights such as oil or gold. ALL subsurface wealth belongs to the state. These countries do not have independent judiciaries that are empowered to invalidate unconstitutional edicts of the government. Any judge in Latin America who rules against the wishes of the government risks being deposed and imprisoned. Most of these countries have not amounted to much either in terms of freedom or prosperity.Read more ›
Hannan lists regular elections, habeas corpus, free contract, equality before the law, open markets, freedom of press and religion, and jury trials as the freedoms that have flourished in the English-speaking world and shows how those freedoms have been responsible for the stupendous prosperity of the previous couple of centuries. He also describes how even the English language promotes freedom, how a Protestant political culture has survived in Anglosphere countries that have seen a decline in religious observance, and how the capitalist system traduced by many is in fact the most moral economic system ever devised.
While many think that Anglo-Saxon liberties are traceable to the Magna Carta, Hannan traces these freedoms all the way back to tenth-century England and reveals why liberty originally flourished there instead of on the Continent. The book recalls how the Norman invasion of 1066 was a terrible setback, but that the Magna Carta of 1215, Glorious Revolution of 1688, and U.S. Constitution of 1787 were restorations of freedoms and liberties English-speakers had known before 1066.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I am enjoying the history lesson Mr. Hannan provides. As a US reader, I appreciate Mr. Hannan's inclusion of personalities and events which the British settlers of the North... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Thomas A. Hanson
This is an excellent history of the development of Anglo Saxon democracy. It traces the key foundation of all democracy - that no individual or group can act without checks... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Mike Keliher
Hannan does a fine job in weaving together a number of threads about the history of Freedom--or as we say in the States: Liberty and Freedom. Read more
This is an utterly fantastic work! If you ever wanted to know how England and America got to be elevated to the exceptional peoples we are, Hannan tells in minute, even... Read morePublished 5 months ago by R. Leverette
A solid overview of English history as it relates to the modern conception of freedom and free society. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Joseph T. Oconnell
I enjoyed the book and think more should read it. The book should be required reading for all people in public office beginning with the President. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Tom Shettle
I really liked this book. In a very pleasurable and readable way, you learn a lot about how England came to be in its early years, and up until recently.Published 7 months ago by Richard Boettcher