British Politics

Wollstonecraft: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

MaryWollstonecraftA Vindication of the Rights of Woman, a 1792 work by Mary Wollstonecraft, is one of the earliest modern statements of the case for political and social equality for women.

Wollstonecraft strongly defended the French Revolution against the criticisms of Edmund Burke in her previous work, A Vindication of the Rights of Men. Her dismay at the new French regime's conservative proposals for female education provided the immediate occasion for a second Vindication addressed to the statesman responsible, Talleyrand. Though novel, her argument that women should exercise full political citizenship, and be educated accordingly, drew heavily on prevalent enlightenment concepts of natural rights.

After her early death, Wollstonecraft's work was overshadowed by the hostile reception to William Godwin's biography of her. However, her reputation recovered with the growth of the women's movement by the early twentieth century, and the Vindication has come to be seen as a central precursor to modern feminism.

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman at online book stores
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Free online texts
Early Modern Texts: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, adapted and translated into modern English, by Jonathan Bennett. PDF format.
Gutenberg: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. EPUB, HTML, MOBI and TXT formats. 
Internet Archive: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. 1891 Unwin edition. EPUB, MOBI, PDF and TXT formats.
University of Adelaide (Internet Archive): A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. EPUB, MOBI and HTML formats.
Wikisource: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. HTML and other formats.

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Burke: Reflections on the Revolution in France

Edmund_Burke_by_James_NorthcoteReflections on the Revolution in France is a 1790 work by Edmund Burke. The best-known critique of the revolution, it was originally written with a polemical purpose which deployed elements of satire as well as more considered arguments in attacking the revolutionaries and their British supporters.

Although many of Burke's factual claims have warranted close historical scrutiny, the influence of his ideas about the organic nature of society and the dangers of radical change based on abstract theory, have nevertheless made the Reflections a founding text of modern conservative thought.

Reflections on the Revolution in France at online book stores
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Free online texts
Early Modern Texts: Reflections on the Revolution in France, adapted and translated into modern English, by Jonathan Bennett. PDF format.
Gutenberg: The Works of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke, Vol III. EPUB, HTML, MOBI and TXT formats.
Internet Archive: On the Sublime and Beatiful, Reflections on the French Revolution, Letter to a Noble Lord. Harvard Classics edition. EPUB, MOBI, PDF and TXT formats.
University of Adelaide (Internet Archive): Reflections on the Revolution in France. EPUB, MOBI and HTML formats.
Wikisource: Reflections on the Revolution in France. HTML and other formats.

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Milton: Areopagitica

Areopagitica_1644bw_gobeirneAreopagitica is a 1644 polemical essay by the poet John Milton arguing for freedom of the press. Written early in the English Civil War, at a moment when Parliament had broken the authority of Charles I's controls on publishing, it was unsuccessful in dissuading the dominant Presbyterian faction from instituting its own censorship. It nevertheless became a formative influence on later arguments for freedom of speech in the  liberal tradition.

Areopagitica at Amazon: United States | Canada | United Kingdom | France | Germany | Spain | Italy

Free online texts

Dartmouth College: Areopagitica. HTML format.

Gutenberg: Areopagitica. HTML, EPUB, Kindle and TXT formats.

Internet Archive. English Minor Poems, Paradise Lost, Samson Agonistes, Areopagitica. Britannica Great Books edition. EPUB, TXT, MOBI and PDF formats.

Internet Archive. Areopagitica. Clarendon (1894) with notes by John W. Hales. EPUB, TXT, MOBI and PDF formats.

Internet Archive: Essays Civil and Moral and The New Atlantis by Francis Bacon, Areopagitica and Tractate on Education by John Milton and Religio Medici by Thomas Brown. Harvard Classics, Vol 3. EPUB, TXT, MOBI and PDF formats.

University of Adelaide (Internet Archive): Areopagitica. PDF, EPUB, TXT and Kindle formats.

Wikisource: Areopagitica. HTML and other formats. See also Harvard Classics edition.

Other Resources

Librivox: Areopagitica | Areopagitica (version 2) - public domain audiobooks.

Wikipedia: John Milton - Areopagitica

The Great Conversation: Further reading at Tom's Learning Notes

Euripides: The Suppliants - quoted at the start of the text.

Isocrates: Areopagitikos - the inspiration for the title of Milton's work.

John Aubrey: Brief Lives - includes a life of Milton.

Harold Bloom's Western Canon: includes the Areopagitica.


John Locke: Two Treatises of Government

Embarquement_de_Guillaume_d'Orange_pour_l'Angleterre_en_1688The Two Treatises of Government by John Locke are seminal works in the history of the liberal tradition, originally published in the aftermath of England's Whig revolution of 1688, with which Locke was intimately involved, though written some years earlier.

The First Treatise attacks the doctrine of the divine right of kings, defended by Anglican theologians such as Sir Robert Filmer, an important bulwark of the legitimacy of the Stuart monarchs.

The Second Treatise offers Locke's positive political theory, putting forward a social contract argument, which unlike that of Hobbes, provides a basis for limited representative government. If this Locke's key significance for his admirers, his critics point to his theory of property, which allows for slavery, and has been interpreted as allowing greater to rights to those who exploit natural resources more fully, potentially favouring European settlers in the Americas over natives.

Two Treatises of Government at Amazon: United States | Canada | United Kingdom | France | Germany | Spain | Italy

Free online texts

Constitution.org: Second Treatise of Civil Government. HTML and TXT formats.

Early Modern Texts: Second Treatise on Government (1689), adapted and translated into modern English, by Jonathan Bennett. PDF format.

Gutenberg: Second Treatise of Government. Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: Two Treatises of Government, with Patriarcha by Robert Filmer, edited by Thomas I. Cook. Hafner Library of Classics. Multiple formats.

Liberty Fund: Two Treatises of Government, edited by Thomas Hollis. Multiple formats. See also enhanced edition.

Marxists.org: The Second Treatise of Government. HTML format.

University of Adelaide (Internet Archive): The Second Treatise of Civil Government. Multiple formats.

Wikisource: Two Treatises of Government. HTML and other formats.

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George Dangerfield: The Strange Death of Liberal England

George Dangerfield's The Strange Death of Liberal England is the classic account of the many-sided political crisis that threatened to overtake the British political system in the years leading up to the First World War. This encompassed industrial unrest and the rise of the Labour Party, interacting with the Suffragette movement and its overlapping demand for expansion of the franchise, and most fatefully, the Irish Party's demand for Home Rule, opposed by a new and militant Ulster unionism backed by the Conservative Party from their powerbase in the House of Lords.

Free online texts

Hathi.org: The Strange Death of Liberal England by George Dangerfield. New York, H. Smith & R. Hass, 1935.