Freedom: An Unruly History.
Harvard University Press (2020)
We tend to think of freedom as something that is best protected by carefully circumscribing the boundaries of legitimate state activity. But who came up with this understanding of freedom, and for what purposes? In a masterful and surprising reappraisal of more than two thousand years of thinking about freedom in the West, Annelien de Dijn argues that we owe our view of freedom not to the Reformation or the Enlightenment but to counterrevolutionary thinkers.
“Ambitious and impressive… Explores an alternate history of the concept from the ancient world to the Age of Revolution to the Cold War, charting those moments when new notions of freedom—such as freedom from government supervision or repression—deviated from its more classical and longstanding definition as self-government… At a time when the very survival of both freedom and democracy seems uncertain, books like this are more important than ever, as our societies contemplate both the heritage of the past and the prospects for the future.”
—Tyler Stovall, The Nation.
“A brilliantly crafted, compelling, and deeply relevant history for our times.”
—Kirkus, starred review.
“Thought-provoking… Helps explain how partisans on both the right and the left can claim to be protectors of liberty, yet hold radically different understandings of its meaning… This deeply informed history of an idea has the potential to combat political polarization.”
“Ambitious and bold, this book will have an enormous impact on how we think about the place of freedom in the Western tradition.”
—Samuel Moyn, author of Not Enough: Human Rights in an Unequal World.
“This book brings remarkable clarity to a big and messy subject, the definition of freedom in the Western tradition. New insights and hard-hitting conclusions about the resistance to democracy make this essential reading for anyone interested in the roots of our current dilemmas.”
—Lynn Hunt, author of History: Why It Matters