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Inventing Freedom: How the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World Hardcover – November 19, 2013

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Editorial Reviews


“With the eloquence of Macaulay or Trevelyan—both of whom are liberally quoted here—Hannan sweeps us through English history to show the triumph of law-based liberty and “that total understanding which can only exist between people speaking the same tongue.” (The Telegraph (UK))

“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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Broadside Books (November 19, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062231731
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062231734
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (141 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #176,353 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Daniel Hannan is a writer and blogger, and he has been a member of the European Parliament representing South East England for the Conservative Party since 1999. He graduated with a double first in history from Oriel College, Oxford, and worked as a speechwriter and journalist before standing for election. His previous book, The New Road to Serfdom: A Letter of Warning to America, was a New York Times bestseller. He blogs at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

74 of 76 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Pollock on November 24, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Daniel Hannan is clearly on the side of the principles that made the English-speaking countries bastions of stable government - foremost, the rule of law. First, there were principles - individual rights, private property, representative government - then institutions that enshrined and enforced these principles. Why is it that England and its former colonies have governments that represent the people to a greater or lesser degree, while the former colonies of France and Spain are unstable autocracies cloaked in the figleaf of a constitution ignored in practice? Why is England stable, while Peru is not? It takes a book to answer the question, and Hannan begins with the orgins of the rule of law in ancient England. The invading Normans adopted the nascent institutions of the Anglo-Saxons and began to think of themselves as English. What he calls the two civil wars are recounted in fascinating detail - the first being the English Glorious Revolution of 1688, the second the American revolution, which Hannan considers not a revolution by Americans against the British, but a civil war in which the colonies viewed themselves British and the English rulers as violating the colonies' rights as British subjects. Each chapter is considered in historical detail, overturning many received assumptions. The chapter on Anglobalization examines in turn the nations of the United Kingdom and the interesting case of India. Always, Hannan is enlightening and erudite. You can learn much from reading this book, and it's a keeper on my bookshelf.
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53 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Alan F. Sewell on December 1, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Author Daniel Hannan is a person of English ancestry who was born and raised in Peru then relocated to the United Kingdom as an adult and made a career in politics, including becoming one of the U.K.'s representatives to the European Parliament. His global experience has shown him how unique is our "Anglosphere" heritage of representative democracy, protection of property rights, the sanctity of law, and the inalienable rights of the individual.

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.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Eric Mayforth on December 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover
In the last few years, Daniel Hannan has been recognized all over the English-speaking world as one of the most eloquent voices for freedom. In 2010 he implored Americans to reject European-style social democracy in The New Road to Serfdom, and now in "Inventing Freedom" Hannan provides a history of English-speaking liberty and shows how it was instrumental in creating the world we live in today.

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.
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