AUTHOR: Helena Rosenblatt
The Lost History of Liberalism challenges our most basic assumptions about a political creed that has become a rallying cry — and a term of derision — in today’s increasingly divided public square.
Taking readers from ancient Rome to today, Helena Rosenblatt traces the evolution of the words “liberal” and “liberalism,” revealing the heated debates that have taken place over their meaning.
Rosenblatt debunks the popular myth of liberalism as a uniquely Anglo-American tradition centered on individual rights, says a review on the Princeton University Press website.
She shows that it was the French Revolution that gave birth to liberalism and Germans who transformed it. Only in the mid-20th century did the concept become widely known in the US—and then, as now, its meaning was hotly debated.
Liberals were originally moralists at heart. They believed in the power of religion to reform society, emphasized the sanctity of the family, and never spoke of rights without speaking of duties.