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on November 24, 2013
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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on December 1, 2013
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.

Hannan goes into interesting detail explaining the specifics of how the English developed their deeply ingrained respect for human rights and property rights and then transmitted that culture to its overseas colonies of the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and (arguably) India. Here are a couple of excellent quotes among many:

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The foundation of the British Empire was not laid in the gloomy age of ignorance and suspicion but in an epoch when the rights of mankind were better understood and more clearly defined, than at any other former period. --GEORGE WASHINGTON, 1783
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It is true that each people has a special character independent of its political interest. One might say that America gives the most perfect picture, for good or ill, of the special character of the English race. The American is the Englishman left to himself. --ALEXIS DE TOCQUEVILLE, 1840
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Like the British we Americans have had incessant conflicts over how best to balance the desire for individual liberty with the necessity to conform to national laws. How far should we go in decentralizing our government into small units of state and local governments, which are most responsive to the people, and how much authority should we retain in the national government?

We have been fighting over those issues of centralization vs. states rights from the time the Constitution was ratified (the Constitution's strong national government was OPPOSED by many of the original Patriots) through the Civil War and on down to the present "Tea Party Revolt."

Hannan provides a thorough grounding of how these issues developed throughout British history, including that murky time before 1776 when the territory that later became the USA was governed from England and took part in its civil wars and political intrigues.

Hannan also discusses some important questions about how the nations within the "Anglosphere" should affiliate with each other:

1. Should the United Kingdom distance itself from the centralizing tendencies of the European Union, which it has little in common with in law or culture, and strengthen economic and political ties with its "Anglosphere partners" in the USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand?

2. And what about India, the giant of the English-speaking world, that will soon be the most populous country in the world (at well over a billion people), and with a dynamic, fast-growing economy, that may become one of the world's largest. Should we embrace India as an "Anglosphere" country on a par with England, the USA, Canada, etc. and engage it with free trade and facilitated immigration of Indians who would like to relocate to the other countries?

These are timely issues that all of us in the "Anglosphere" should be carefully considering.

I do have to fault the book on a couple of lesser points. One is that Hannan seems to be extremely well educated about every part of the world EXCEPT the United States. In my opinion his lack of complete knowledge of American history leads him to innocently mischaracterize the motives of the American Revolution. He takes the revisionist tack that the American Revolution was a manifestation of an English Civil War between the King's opponents and supporters. He throws cold water on the view that our revolution had anything to do with a nationalist desire to form an independent country.

That is an over-simplified view because American nationalists, who wanted the Thirteen Colonies to become an independent sovereign Republic, were prolific writers on that very subject decades before the Revolution broke out in 1775. This view doesn't detract any from the main ideas that Hannan wants to get across, but my antennae went up when I read his take on the American Revolution.

The book leaves us with the question: How do we of the Anglosphere maintain the precious heritage of human rights and property rights that the British instilled in our culture? The constantly improving means of communications and control seem to be centralizing power in national governments and leaving the state and county governments to wither on the vine. The American "Teaparty Movement" is confronting that issue at this very moment. They are particularly incensed by the federalization of healthcare and by the ever-rising taxes needed to pay for that and other exploding social welfare programs instigated by the national government.

If this is a question that interests you as a liberty-loving person, then you need to read this book in order to obtain a solid grounding on how our culture of human rights and property rights originated. Fish who live in the water don't miss it until they're taken out of it. This book will educate you on how to appreciate the ocean of liberty we swim in and what we would lose if it were ever taken away.
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on December 2, 2013
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.

Hannan asserts that both the English Civil War and the American Revolution were civil wars within the Anglosphere and that the two conflicts were fought over largely the same issues--the book contains lengthy chapters remembering each. The ultimate resolutions of both, the Glorious Revolution and U.S. Constitution, were the foundation of the success and prosperity the Anglosphere has known in recent centuries.

The author also looks at the Anglosphere nations of Ireland, Canada, Australia, and India, and also touches on slavery--he notes that while slavery was practiced all over the world it was the English-speaking nations that successfully saw it eradicated and discusses why that was so.

Hannan closes by looking at the state of the Anglosphere today. He sadly observes that the principles that led to our preeminence are being abandoned today, and it is hard to disagree. After a look at the trend lines in regard to size of government, tax rates, freedom of speech, and other traditional liberties, we seem free only relative to the rest of the world, and negative liberties and negative rights seem to be viewed with increasing suspicion whenever they aren't viewed with outright disdain. "Inventing Freedom" is a worthy history of liberty and a call for citizens of the Anglosphere to reclaim the freedoms and heritage that made their nations strong and great.
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on November 24, 2013
I just finished the introduction of the book. I will write more later, but I wanted to say that every American should be taught the introduction of this book in high school. It is simply wonderful and I have read nothing like it anywhere else. In the USA, the current crop of educators tend to try to make the English, Western world an evil thing; this is the antidote. We live in a world built by the English and that fact should be broadcast loud and clear.
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on June 5, 2014
Hannan has written a provocative analysis of the origins of freedom in the modern world - wide ranging over time and territory. My task here is to challenge some of his assumptions and assertions. Hannan clearly believes English common law is one of the reasons freedom developed and expanded in the "Anglosphere," with its basis in precedent, past cases, and empirical adjustments, as opposed to the Roman or Napoleonic coded laws which are deductive and based upon theoretical concepts. Moreover, the codes originate at the top of power and can be easily changed by the rulers; whereas common law is the search for justice through accretions of decisions, and once discovered through particular instances and cases, then all, including the king, must abide.

Supporters of the supremacy of the common law could emphasize what occurred in 1655 when Cromwell permitted Jews to return to reside in England (they had been expelled from the kingdom in 1290). So Hannan (on p. 181) follows historian Paul Johnson to conclude: "... England was, before the United States, the best place to live and practice as a Jew. The reason ..., elsewhere, Jews had been placed in a separate legal category in the days when ecclesiastical courts claimed no jurisdiction over non-Christians. The separate status made Jews vulnerable down the centuries to all manner of discrimination and persecution. In England, by contrast, Jews were subject only to the relatively mild restrictions placed on all non-Anglicans.."(Hannan, p. 181)

Then, there is something almost deceptive in Hannan's use of "common law." On p. 255 he rhapsodizes about the Acts of Union - how the Welsh, English, and Scots were proud in their Britishness, and proud of the British Empire. "Britishness,..., is a political and constitutional construct based primarily on shared political values and institutions." Later, on the same page, Hannan continues: "The British saw themselves as being set apart by unique institutions: a sovereign parliament, the common law, secure property rights, an independent judiciary, armed forces that were subordinate to the civil authorities, Protestantism, and above all, personal freedom."(255)

Yet, not until p. 328 (of a 377 page book) does Hannon let slip an important fact. "[Foreigners] were astonished-... by the miracle of the common law. In their countries, laws were drafted by the government and then applied to particular cases. But in the Anglosphere (except Scotland), laws emerged case by case..." Only in this parenthesis does Hannan, who extols the union of England and Scotland, concede that the miraculous common law was not authoritative in Scotland. That kingdom retained a Roman-type Codified law.

And if not deception, surely clarification is lacking elsewhere. When revealing the origin of the phrase from Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, Hannan notes "But the words were not Lincoln's. Most of his hearers would have recognized the source, as our generation does not. They came from the prologue to what was probably the earliest translation of the Holy Scripture in the English language: `This Bible is for the government of the people, for the people and by the people.' The author was the theologian John Wycliffe...the words had first appeared in 1384."(Hannan, pp. 32-33) However, googling, one source attributed the phrase to Wycliffe's assistant, John Purvey for the prologue to the editions of 1388 and/or 1395, after the death of Wycliffe. But it does not end there. In 2009 Eugene Volokh on his web site concluded that the claim for Wycliffe and company was apocryphal and that those phrases do not exist in the prologues to Wycliffe's Bible. Another website, for Hoyle's New Cyclopedia of 1922 thought the phrase may have come from the Hereford Bible or a pamphlet from that era. My question, if Hannan's claim that Americans of the 19th century would have recognized Lincoln's source as Wycliffe, why did they not comment upon it? Surely, much has been written about Lincoln and that speech. Hannan, who graduated with a double first in history from Oxford should have provided a proper reference, especially as Volokh, several years prior to Hannan's book being published, had already disputed the claim.
On the larger point, I agree with Hannan that Protestantism, especially where the congregations chose the ministers of the church, was more democratic in process and practice, than Roman Catholicism, where priests were assigned by higher church authorities. Whether Wycliffe is or is not the source of Lincoln's phrase in the Gettysburg Address, there was a democratic, populist impulse in the Protestant Revolution.

Hannan rightly points out that one neglected aspect of the American Revolution was its anti-Catholicism. There was a feeling my many that the Quebec Act of 1774 enraged the American colonists because they believed that that act, and the Proclamation Line of 1763, which denied colonists access to lands west of the Allegheny Mountains. These British measures thus deprived the colonists of their fruits of victory. Together, the British and colonials had defeated their enemies in North America during the French and Indian War. Yet, suddenly King George was robbing the colonists of their victory by granting so much to the French of Quebec and the Indians of the West. Indeed, Hannan rightly reminds readers that one section of the Declaration of Independence contained a specific complaint about the Quebec Act, though the legislation was not mentioned by name. In the Declaration, the act was listed as one of the grievances that led the colonists to declare their independence.

Hannan quotes both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson where they display their anti-Catholic beliefs. But Hannan is silent on another important point. In 1803 when the Jefferson Administration bought the huge Louisiana Territory from Napoleon, America pledged not to interfere with the religion of the inhabitants. Because under the French and Spanish, only the Roman Catholic Church was permitted, most settlers were Roman. Of course, henceforth, under the Americans, there would be religious freedom. But when Louisiana entered the union as a state in 1812, the boundary had been drawn so that only a small portion of the Louisiana Territory would enter as that state - and this is where most of the Catholics were. Catholics would not be persecuted, but their influence would be restricted because their state would be only the boot of the massive territory. Louisiana became the first state with a majority Roman Catholic population. And midway in the 19th century, Louisiana would become the first state to send to the US Senate a professing Jew. Indeed, Sen. Judah Benjamin would later enter the Cabinet holding several posts during the Administration of Pres. Jefferson Davis of the CSA. And like other southern states after the Civil War, several Blacks held high office in Louisiana during Reconstruction. Louisiana is the only state in the US to have laws based on Spanish and the Napoleonic Codes rather than English common law.

Of course, with its Spanish and Napoleonic Codes, Catholic Louisiana retained slavery until it was abolished at the end of the American Civil War. But slavery also existed in all the southern states, most of which were not merely Protestant, but so fervently Protestant that they are still referred to as "the Bible belt." They all had English common law, but it did not free, or even help the slaves on those states. In the North and South there were some who sought to reduce or end slavery through colonization - sending slaves to Africa or elsewhere. These efforts led to the foundation of Liberia and its capital, Monrovia, named after a slave-holding American president. The Abolitionists helped form the Republican Party, but their support was almost exclusively in the North. In 1860 the Republican candidate won the national Presidency with only 40% of the vote, and not a single vote counted for Lincoln in the South. Bottom line, and again I must agree with Hannan, though some Protestants defended slavery in Biblical terms, even fighting a war with massive casualties to retain the institution, other Protestants, also using the Bible, demanded the abolition of slavery. They too fought, and died, to end slavery. They won the Civil War.

Hannan writes that the "custom" of primogeniture - giving all the inheritance to the eldest male heir, provided stability of inheritance and property and a stimulus for early capitalism. His contrasts of the English countryside with those of the European continent makes a powerful visual argument. Yet, Hannan relates that second sons in America, like Thomas Jefferson, were adamant in their opposition to the custom and determined to prevent primogeniture from monopolizing rural America. Small farms were his ideal and he had laws enacted to prevent primogeniture. By contrast, in the Napoleonic Code, all children, including females, become heirs, and they cannot be totally disinherited.

Hannan contends that the American Revolution was a continuance of the British struggles that had culminated in the Glorious Revolution, which deposed James II in favor of William and Mary. Hannan argues that the British learnt from their failure in dealing with America. Thereafter, the objective of the British Empire was to treat its colonies so as to prepare them for eventual self-government and independence. The British imperial mission was to provide colonies with British customs, the English language, common law, sanctity of property, etc. He is aware that British imperialism now has a bad rep, but it was the empire that stopped the international slave trade and later abolished slavery in its dominions. And unlike French, Belgian, or German colonies, under the British native peoples often achieved independence without much bloodshed (though he acknowledges Kenya as an exception).

As proof of the success of the British Empire, Hannan cites statistics on India during WWII: "Whereas the Japanese-backed Indian National Army numbered forty thousand, nearly 2.5 million Indians fought for the Anglosphere in Europe, Asia, and Africa: the largest volunteer army in history."(297) This is surely a powerful statistic supporting Hannan's thesis; however, it does not tell the entire story. Subhas Chandra Bose, elected mayor of Calcutta, was President of the Indian National Congress, but in disputes with Gandhi in 1938-39, Bose lost his Congress Party post. With the outbreak of war, the British placed him under house arrest. Bose escaped with the aid of the German Abwehr, which got him to Afghanistan, then flew him to Moscow (Stalin and Hitler were allies at that time), and finally to Berlin. Bose broadcast on German shortwave nightly as Free India Radio. He recruited from Indian POWs who had for Britain against the Rommel campaign in Africa so that so that 3,000 Indians formed the Free India Legion in the Wehrmacht. Bose even met Hitler. In March 1943 Bose traveled by German U-boat to waters off Madagascar, where the German sub met one from Japan. Bose transferred to the Asian vessel. In May 1943 he landed in Japanese occupied Indonesia; Bose proclaimed the Provisional Government of the Republic of India, declared war on Britain and the United States, and began recruiting his Indian National Army from among Indian POWs of Japan. Remember, these were men who had sworn to fight for the British King - now they would break their oath and fight for the Axis and a free India. Finally, his troops were ready, but in Burma in 1944, they suffered defeat. Still, there was great shock and fear among the Raj in India. How could their soldiers defect, and then fight against them? "The Jewel in the Crown" provides a fictional glimpse of the angst caused by Bose and the fear of an Axis Indian army invading India. Hannan hoists the numbers 2.5 million to 40,000. I think it was a much closer call. And while almost all Indians regard Gandhi as a father of independent India, many see two fathers - the other being Chandra Bose. Bottom line, India remained British during WWII. On that Hannan is correct. But I think it was a much closer call than the stats indicate.
And when crunch time came in WWII, even Canada was not as solid as Hannan's book implies. There was no draft in French Canada. Why were the French in Canada less enthusiastic about defending Britain during time of threat? Perhaps, events in France had something to do with Canada's reaction.

Jews had been expelled from parts of, but not all of France around the same time they were exiled from England in the late 1200s. In those parts where Jews remained in France, they were subject to separate laws, but they could still live in various sections of France, and these areas grew as France annexed new lands as Alsace and Lorraine. With the French Revolution, more changes occurred than the mere measure by the king's foot. The metric system replaced the older weights and measures to provide a "reasonable" system. In addition, the promotion of reason led to the onslaught against "superstition," i.e. clericalism and Christianity. Even the Christian calendar was abolished and replaced with Year I of the French Revolution and a (metric) 10-day week. The Cathedral of Notre Dame was converted into the Temple of the Goddess of Reason. And in accord with these changes, in 1791 Louis Peletier "presented a new criminal code to the Constituent Assembly. He explained that it outlawed only `true crimes,' and not phony offenses created by superstition, feudalism, the tax system, and [royal] despotism.' He did not list the crimes `created by superstition,' but these certainly included, blasphemy, heresy, sacrilege, witchcraft and homosexuality. All these former offenses were swiftly decriminalized. In 1810 a new criminal code was issued under Napoleon. As with the Penal Code of 1791 it did not contain provision against religious crimes."(Wikipedia. Napoleonic Code)

Where Napoleon's troops conquered, and his Code often imposed, there was also a liberating result. Jews who had been proscribed to reside only in ghettos, could leave; gays might not be prosecuted. There were major critics of these changes, from the outside, Metternich to the Russian Czar, and on the inside, not all reforms were implemented in all French satellites, as Poland was also unhappy with some. So, many could view Napoleon as a great liberator when he conquered. However, if the initial Jacobin radicalism of equality and the Rights of Man may have helped stir events in Haiti, Napoleon sent troops to the island not to aid in liberation, but to quell the slave rebellion and reinstitute slavery. Thus, the contrast. While many hailed his liberating victories in the Rhineland and the Papal states of Italy, in Haiti the freed slaves cheered the defeat of Napoleon's quest for empire in the New World.

Hannan emphasizes the common law, the rule of law, primogeniture, and Protestantism as elements in the growth of capitalism and the subsequent prosperity of the modern world. Yet, the European continent had no English common law, yet it certainly had capitalism. And though Max Weber and other sociologists associate Protestantism with capitalism on the continent, as in the Netherlands and the Huguenots of France, still what group was most associated with the bourgeoisie and capitalism on the continent? Though the Rothschild banks may have preceded the Napoleonic Code, most of his sons, and their banks were located on the continent. They did not enjoy the miraculous features of common law. And surely, Rothschild did not believe in primogeniture. He sent his sons from Frankfurt to Vienna, Naples, Paris, and London to found similar banks. Nevertheless, most would consider the Rothschilds to be successful.

(Despite the liberating influence of Napoleon on Jews in Europe, curiously, Rothschild's bank did much to supply funds for Wellington and the British in its wars against the French Emperor. I am unsure if that was only the London branch. Might the others have supported Napoleon?) Napoleon eventually lost, and many Jews in Italy had to return to the ghettos. Nevertheless, but the 1850s the Rothschilds were possibly the richest family on earth. Jews, without the "aid" of the English common law, were becoming the capitalists, par excellence of Europe, sponsoring railroads and later oil development throughout the globe. And it was not simply the Rothschilds. Google various countries to discover the statistics of Jewish overrepresentation in the professions, in industry, in commerce, in wealth, in France, Germany, AustroHungary, etc. and this overrepresentation increased after WWI. There was growing jealousy. And with the growth of socialism in various forms, there were demands to kerb the 1%, kerb the elite, kerb the capitalists, kerb the Jews. Communism seized power in Russia, but in Italy, Portugal, Hungary, ever more European nations were turning to anti-communism, and fascism. The most important of these would be when the National Socialists of Adolf Hitler ascended to power in Germany.
Some early attempts by the Nazis to restrict Jews were to reduce their activities to their % of the general population in professions, business, etc. and thus allow gentiles to achieve their "rightful" percentage of the pie of wealth - (similar to affirmative action in modern America). When restrictions failed to contain Jewish success, other measures, culminating with their elimination, were often deemed necessary and accomplished legally.

War began in September 1939 and by summer 1940, following the Sitzkrieg on the western from, German armies swept through. While the British planned to enter Norway, the Germans beat them to the punch, quickly going through Denmark, and then taking Norway. Then Netherlands and Belgium. And almost as quickly, France crumbled. The French Republic was replaced by a hero of the First World War, a man who now gave himself to the nation as Chief of State, Marshal Philippe Petain. The Marshal acknowledged the defeat of France but hoped to save its empire by cooperating with the German victors. Collaboration was the word. The new British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, fearing France's fleet would fall to Hitler, (and when combined with Axis sea power, be able to challenge the British Navy), Churchill chose to act quickly and decisively. His ships cornered the French fleet on 3 July 1940 in the Algerian port of Mers-el-Kebir, and the British demanded surrender within an hour. In effect, it was a surprise attack. The British destroyed most of the French ships and killed 1.300 French seamen. Britain, ally of France in April 1940, turned on the French in July to kill 1,300 seamen at Mers-el-Kebir. To put thing in perspective: in December 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, they killed 2,400 American servicemen. Americans were incensed and demanded war with the antagonist, Japan. In 1940 many in France wanted to declare war against Britain, the ally who had killed so many Frenchmen. But Petain believed France too weak to fight Britain after losing to Germany. So, no war with Britain, but collaborate with Germany. Petain scrapped the French Revolution, trashed the old trinity of liberty, equality, and fraternity, and established a new trinity for the new era - work, family, country. The Napoleonic Code crumbled too. Jews were rounded up, homosexuals declared criminals, Masonic lodges closed and confiscated, etc. France was to find its new place in Neuropa, Neurope, as the continent would be led from Berlin.

In the 1920s and 30s one European nation after another rejected democracy for fascism. Communism dominated the many nations that composed the Soviet Union. By 1941 there was little left of the Napoleonic Code, even in France. Does Hannan think that the common law could have prevented the collapse and catastrophe in Europe? Had Hitler's forces captured London, does he think the common law would have spared England the atrocities of fascism?

I do not have time to discuss some of Hannan's other thought-provoking points. Royal power was restricted in England because England is an island, without need of a standing army. For the king to get one, he had to ask for the money and goods from the people's representatives. But clearly just being an island need not result in a restricted monarchy. Japan's emperor was so elevated, he was deemed a god. Hannan makes a case that the British Empire was neither racial nor ethnic. It was open to all willing to accept the culture and values. But there were anti-Chinese laws in Hong Kong. I suspect there were racial laws in many parts of the empire. And in the Anglosphere in the US slavery existed. The same Protestants who promoted rebellion against King George had their sons lead a rebellion against Lincoln and the North, and surely defense of slavery was one major issue. Hannan is courageous enough to quote former MP Enoch Powell, who is reviled by the politically correct. And unlike the Napoleonic Code, the English common law retained the crime of blasphemy. In 1988 when author Salman Rushdie published The Satanic Verses, Muslim fanatics in the UK marched demanding he be charged with blasphemy. But the common law only protected Christianity, so Muslims protested and burned copies of the book. It was soon banned in many countries, including India, which maintained the residue of common law. In 1989 a fatwa was pronounced against Rushdie by the spiritual leader of Iran, who asked zealous Muslims to take his blood.

Though I quibble with some of his points, Hannan has written a provocative book that forces readers to ponder many issues. Clearly, the Anglosphere has brought freedom and prosperity to millions. But are the sources of those freedoms primogeniture? The common law? What are the sources? The book is a good read.
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on January 28, 2014
Having just finished reading "Inventing Freedom", I can only say that I recommend, without hesitation, its reading to everyone--especially to those who have but a marginal understanding as to why it is that the people of the English speaking world have achieved the highest standard of living ever known in the history of mankind. As an attorney for the past forty years, I have been keenly aware that the freedoms we enjoy in the United States were formed in England. And that we are the beneficiaries of that 1000-year historical legacy. But never before have I been made aware of the myriad of details of that historical evolution so well as is done by this book. Daniel Hannan's thesis is that the freedoms we enjoy today are the direct result of a unique character trait of the Anglo-Saxons that exalted freedom of the individual above the power of the King, and which pre-dated the Norman Conquest. And it is the strength of that character trait, in advocates down through the ages, that has given us what we enjoy today. I find his thesis, based upon the plethora of historical facts which he presents, together with my own experiences in life, compelling.

I stumbled upon this book in Barnes & Noble quite by accident--and wound up reading the entire 17-page Introduction while standing there in the aisle. The Introduction contains the statement, "Once people are in a position to set the rules, they tend to rig the rules in their own favor." That statement comported with what I had seen in my career working in, and looking at, government. I said "This guy's on to something" and decided to buy the book. I was not disappointed.

In reading the book, however, one does need to keep a large dictionary by their side. Despite eight years of college and forty years a lawyer, Hannan's vocabulary far exceeds mine. Once I viewed each new word (on average every page or two) as an opportunity to expand my own vocabulary, I became more comfortable with the frequent interruptions as I reached for the dictionary to look up the meaning of each "hitherto unknown to me" word.

I give the book 4 stars, rather than 5, only because the book would be significantly improved by the use of footnotes (or endnotes)--of which there are none. Although Hannan does frequently quote historical figures, and authors of historical treatises, the book, in its 377 pages, cites a nearly infinite number of historical facts, the vast majority of which are stated without any supporting authority whatsoever. Hannan does hold a degree in History from Oxford. And one would therefore presume that he knows what he is talking about and is accurately relating those historical facts. But this is the type of historical work that would benefit greatly from the inclusion of footnotes, citing his sources for the facts stated in the text, so that those readers who are so inclined could independently verify those facts. We are, you know, talking about things that happened sometimes 1200 years ago. I say this because, judging by the reviews that have preceded mine, Hannan is, in large part, "preaching to the choir". It is not the believers that need to be convinced of the accuracy of his thesis, but the non-believers. Footnotes, in supporting the author's statements of facts, would thereby have a tendency to also support the conclusions of his thesis.

It would also have been nice if he could have explained to us Yanks what is meant by his "double first in history". But that can be figured out by anyone who is truly obsessive in needing to know the answer.
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on March 5, 2014
Boiled down, Hannan claims that the Anglosphere's success arose from inalienable rights and alienable property. He traces the inalienable rights all the way back to Germanic tribes, quoting Tacitus. He doesn't claim that English speaking people are special, but that their circumstances were. In particular, he gives credit to a common nationality (not ethnicity), a strong civic society with varied associational ties, island geography which obviated the need for a standing army, religious pluralism, and most importantly common law, "a unique system that made the state subject to the people rather than the reverse."

According to Hannan, Western values aren't Western, they're British. The earliest English kingdoms already governed by consent. Long before Magna Carta, English people had started to recognize common law rights which were inherited rather than being granted by a sovereign or government. Even if the Anglo-Saxon model isn't historically accurate, the belief in that model drove the development of the English theory of government.

He sees the achievement of the Anglosphere as being threatened by bureaucracy in general and the European Union in particular. The EU imposes taxes without representation, international tribunals reject the presumption of innocence and other hallmarks of British jurisprudence, and freedom of speech is trampled by politically correct hate speech legislation.

Hannan writes clearly and with conviction. Agree with him or not, his viewpoint is worth reading and thinking about.
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on January 27, 2014
Daniel Hannan's book is great. It is easy to read and it contains ideas and 'facts of history' that I want to believe. But the book's flaw - and therefore the publisher's flaw also - is that no third-party facts/sources about the same events or ideas are presented. Yes, there are some in-line references to other works, but not enough. Not substantial. I want to believe everything that Hannan has written here, however, with no bibliography and no endnotes or footnotes, the book is merely his opinion. I am not an academic, but I would like to have seen Mr. Hannan's sources.
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on December 14, 2013
I have a limited tolerance for heavy-duty history books that throw tons of names and dates at you, for which there is little chance that even an astute reader will retain 5% of such detail and trivia. This book does have that level of great detail regarding historical facts in the UK and US, BUT, for once, such a book is engaging and often astonishing.

The book is an intellectual history -- a political philosophy history of freedom in the past millennium, but with a focus on the last four hundred years in the English speaking world -- where almost all of the concepts of freedom have been developed. It's quite a romp through the various conflicts between the people and the rulers -- and the eventual triumph, for the most part, over despotic monarchs, dictators, "benevolent" "democratic" leaders. For those of us with a very limited knowledge of British history it is eye-opening to see the many specific documents that were developed in the centuries before the American Constitution and Bill of Rights, by various British noblemen and parliamentarians to form a society in which the government is truly limited, and is a servant of the citizens -- rather than citizens treated as near-serfs.

One important outcome for me from reading the details of this intellectual history, is that it becomes clear from the struggles of generations of English peoples to secure their rights from the depredations of government leaders, that our current situation is worse that one might think. Many of the leaders of the rights movements of the 16th and 17th and 18th centuries in England and America would be stunned to see the degree to which the U.S. (and U.K.) government now controls everyone's lives through the tentacles of dozens of Federal agencies.
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on January 20, 2014
Clearly written explanation why our form of government make us exceptional in the world and any country would get similar results if it adopted a constitutional government like the English Speaking Countries.
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