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Edmund Burke

Edmund Burke

The First Conservative

A provocative biography of Edmund Burke, the underappreciated founder of modern conservatism

Edmund Burke is both the greatest and the most underrated political thinker of the past three hundred years. A brilliant 18th-century Irish philosopher and statesman, Burke was a fierce champion of human rights and the Anglo-American constitutional tradition, and a lifelong campaigner against arbitrary power. Once revered by an array of great Americans including Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, Burke has been almost forgotten in recent years. But as politician and political philosopher Jesse Norman argues in this penetrating biography, we cannot understand modern politics without him.

As Norman reveals, Burke was often ahead of his time, anticipating the abolition of slavery and arguing for free markets, equality for Catholics in Ireland, responsible government in India, and more. He was not always popular in his own lifetime, but his ideas about power, community, and civic virtue have endured long past his death. Indeed, Burke engaged with many of the same issues politicians face today, including the rise of ideological extremism, the loss of social cohesion, the dangers of the corporate state, and the effects of revolution on societies. He offers us now a compelling critique of liberal individualism, and a vision of society based not on a self-interested agreement among individuals, but rather on an enduring covenant between generations.

Burke won admirers in the American colonies for recognizing their fierce spirit of liberty and for speaking out against British oppression, but his greatest triumph was seeing through the utopian aura of the French Revolution. In repudiating that revolution, Burke laid the basis for much of the robust conservative ideology that remains with us to this day: one that is adaptable and forward-thinking, but also mindful of the debt we owe to past generations and our duty to preserve and uphold the institutions we have inherited. He is the first conservative.

A rich, accessible, and provocative biography, Edmund Burke describes Burke’s life and achievements alongside his momentous legacy, showing how Burke’s analytical mind and deep capacity for empathy made him such a vital thinker-both for his own age, and for ours.thread on pub day of what people at basic like about it (editors)

“You won’t find a more impressive political philosopher than the 18th-century MP who more or less invented Anglosphere conservatism. And you won’t find a pithier, more readable treatise on his life and works than this one.” —Wall Street Journal
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Genre: Nonfiction / Biography & Autobiography / Philosophers

On Sale: May 21st 2013

Price: $11.99

Page Count: 336

ISBN-13: 9780465044948

What's Inside

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Reader Reviews


"An excellent book, which unites biographical and political insights. The best short biography of Burke for nearly fifty years, and a pleasure to read."—Harvey Mansfield, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Government, Harvard University
"Jesse Norman has brought back Burke in triumph. Anyone who cares about politics will pounce on this book and devour it, as I did, in a sitting. A stunning performance."—Boris Johnson, former Mayor of London
"A must-read for anyone interested in politics and history.... Superb."—Matthew D’Ancona, Sunday Telegraph
"A top-notch introduction to Burke and his paternity of political systems throughout the Western Hemisphere."—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
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