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A Brief History of Liberty

ISBN: 978-1-4051-7080-2
280 pages
February 2010, Wiley-Blackwell
A Brief History of Liberty (1405170808) cover image
Through a fusion of philosophical, social scientific, and historical methods, A Brief History of Liberty provides a comprehensive, philosophically-informed portrait of the elusive nature of one of our most cherished ideals.
  • Offers a succinct yet thorough survey of personal freedom
  • Explores the true meaning of liberty, drawing philosophical lessons about liberty from history
  • Considers the writings of key historical figures from Socrates and Erasmus to Hobbes, Locke, Marx, and Adam Smith
  • Combines philosophical rigor with social scientific analysis
  • Argues that liberty refers to a range of related but specific ideas rather than limiting the concept to one definition
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Acknowledgments vii

Introduction: Conceptions of Freedom 1

1 A Prehistory of Liberty: Forty Thousand Years Ago 30

2 The Rule of Law: ad 1075 60

3 Religious Freedom: 1517 93

4 Freedom of Commerce: 1776 120

5 Civil Liberty: 1954 169

6 Psychological Freedom, the Last Frontier: 1963 208

Bibliography 244

Index 261

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David Schmidtz is Kendrick Professor of Philosophy, joint Professor of Economics, and Director of the Freedom Center at the University of Arizona. His articles have appeared in the Journal of Philosophy, Ethics, and Political Theory.

Jason Brennan is Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Research, at Brown University, and a faculty associate of the Political Theory Project at Brown University. His articles have appeared in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, The Australasian Journal of Philosophy, and Ratio.

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  • Offers a succinct yet thorough survey of personal freedom
  • Explores the true meaning of liberty, drawing philosophical lessons about liberty from history
  • Considers the writings of key historical figures from Socrates and Erasmus to Hobbes, Locke, Marx, and Adam Smith
  • Combines philosophical rigor with social scientific analysis
  • Argues that liberty refers to a range of related but specific ideas rather than limiting the concept to one definition
See More
"Although the book has a strongly classical liberal flavour, it also contains some interesting discussion of positive liberty. For one thing, Schmidtz and Brennan argue that the progress of negative liberty in western societies has massively expanded almost everyone's range of real options. For another, they suggest that this greater (negative and positive) external freedom can open the way to a greater internal or psychological" freedom". (The Philosophers' Magazine, 13 August 2010)

"Its brevity and simplicity is perhaps understandable, given the historical focus and ambitious scope of the book, and the authors' evident desire to get the light, entertaining and up-beat narrative moving." (The Philosopher's Magazine, August 2010)

"Its brevity and simplicity is perhaps understandable, given the historical focus and ambitious scope of the book, and the authors' evident desire to get the light, entertaining and up-beat narrative moving." (The Philosopher's Magazine, August 2010)

"The book weaves together a number of figures in social, political, philosophical, economic, and even psychological theory, in a way not commonly found, and it does so rather effectively." (Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, September 05, 2010)

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