Edmund Burke, 1729-1797: A Portrait and an Appraisal

Thomas D. Mahoney discusses the character, career and present-day importance of the great political philosopher.

Thomas Mahoney | Published in History Today

The main body of the letters and papers of Edmund Burke, which had long been kept from scholars with few exceptions, is now available to them through the kindness of the late Earl Fitzwilliam who placed this material on deposit in the Public Library of the City of Sheffield. The release of these papers a few years ago, combined with the vogue enjoyed in the United States by evolutionary conservatism, has revived American interest in Burke whom Dr. Johnson called “the first man everywhere.” It is, indeed, fitting that Burke should attract attention, since we five in a period when the lessons which his great mind taught have a particular pertinency. His battle against the ideology of the French Revolution, for example, has a special significance for the West in its struggle against history’s latest revolutionary threat. It is good to be reminded of the fundamental values of Western civilization as they were being challenged in Burke’s day and are now again in ours.

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