As always during its long history, English common law, upon which American law is based, has had to defend itself against the challenge of civil law’s clarity and traditions. That challenge to our common-law heritage remains today. To that end, Liberty Fund now makes available a clear and candid discussion of common law. A Concise History of the Common Law provides a source for common-law understanding of individual rights, not in theory only, but protected through the confusing and messy evolution of courts and their administration as they struggled to resolve real problems. Plucknett’s seminal work is intended to convey a sense of historical development—not to serve merely as a work of reference.
In Constitutionalism and the Separation of Powers, M. J. C. Vile traces the history of the doctrine from its rise during the English Civil War, through its development in the eighteenth century—through subsequent political thought and constitution-making in Britain, France, and the United States.
The Crisis of the Seventeenth Century collects nine essays by Trevor-Roper on the themes of religion, the Reformation, and social change.
In this volume, Caroline Robbins adeptly presents a history of the Commonwealthmen, “a gifted and active minority of the population of the British Isles, who kept alive, during an age of extraordinary complacency and legislative inactivity, a demand for increased liberty of conscience.”
Carroll Quigley was a legendary teacher at the Georgetown School of Foreign Service. His course on the history of civilization was extraordinary in its scope and in its impact on students.
Hippolyte Taine’s The French Revolution, which is written from the viewpoint of conservative French opinion, is a unique and important contribution to revolutionary historiography.
In his famous Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), Edmund Burke excoriated French revolutionary leaders for recklessly destroying France’s venerable institutions and way of life. But his war against the French intelligentsia did not end there, and Burke continued to take pen in hand against the Jacobins until his death in 1797.
Benedetto Croce (1866–1952), who is perhaps best known as the author in 1902 of Aesthetics, wrote History as the Story of Liberty in 1938, when the Western world had succumbed to the notion that history is a creature of blind force. A reviewer at the time noted the importance of Croce’s belief that “the central trend in the evolution of man is the unfolding of new potentialities, and that the task of the historian is to discover and emphasize this trend: the story of liberty.” As Croce himself writes, “Even in the darkest and crassest times liberty trembles in the lines of poets and affirms itself in the pages of thinkers and burns, solitary and magnificent, in some men who cannot be assimilated by the world around them.” The first edition in English of History as the Story of Liberty appeared in London in 1941. The new Liberty Fund edition includes modest improvements to the translation by Folke Leander and arranged by Claes Ryn.
Originally given as a series of lectures at the Sorbonne, François Guizot’s History of Civilization in Europe was published to great acclaim in 1828 and is now regarded as a classic in modern historical research. History was particularly influential on Karl Marx, John Stuart Mill, and Alexis de Tocqueville. Tocqueville, in fact, requested that a copy of History be sent to him when he arrived in the United States.
David Hume’s enduring reputation as the first modern thinker to develop a systematically naturalistic philosophy tends to obscure the fact that he was more famous among his contemporaries as a historian. Covering almost 1,800 years, The History of England from the Invasion of Julius Caesar to the Revolution in 1688 was the work that established Hume’s reputation in his own time.
First published in 1895, Sir Frederick Pollock and Frederic William Maitland’s legal classic The History of English Law before the Time of Edward I expanded the work of Sir Edward Coke and William Blackstone by exploring the origins of key aspects of English common law and society and with them the development of individual rights as these were gradually carved out from the authority of the Crown and the Church. Although it has been more than a century since its initial publication, Pollock and Maitland’s work is still considered an accessible and useful foundational reference for scholars of medieval English law.