Edmund Burke (1730–97) lived during one of the most extraordinary periods of world history. He grappled with the significance of the British Empire in India, fought for reconciliation with the American colonies, and was a vocal critic of national policy during three European wars. He also advocated reform in Britain, pressed for constitutional change in Ireland, and became a central protagonist in the great debate on the French Revolution. Drawing on the complete range of printed and manuscript sources, Empire and Revolution offers a vivid reconstruction of the major concerns of this outstanding statesman, orator, and philosopher.
In restoring Burke to his original political and intellectual context, this book strips away the accumulated distortions that have marked the reception of his ideas. In the process, it overturns the conventional picture of a partisan of tradition against progress. In place of the image of a backward-looking opponent of popular rights, it presents a multifaceted portrait of one of the most captivating figures in eighteenth-century life and thought. While Burke was a passionately energetic statesman, he was also a deeply original thinker. Empire and Revolution depicts him as a philosopher-in-action who evaluated the political realities of the day through the lens of Enlightenment thought, variously drawing on the ideas of such figures as Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Hume.
A boldly ambitious work of scholarship, this book challenges us to rethink the legacy of Burke and the turbulent era in which he played so pivotal a role.
Richard Bourke is professor in the history of political thought and codirector of the Centre for the Study of the History of Political Thought at Queen Mary University of London. He is the author of Peace in Ireland: The War of Ideas and the coeditor of Political Judgement.
"Richard Bourke’s new biography takes us back to the beginning again with Burke, demolishing numerous shibboleths about his politics along the way. . . . This book is both more creative and exhaustive than anything else in its single-mindedness--quite an achievement."--Duncan Kelly, Times Literary Supplement
"Unsurpassable. . . . Some historians . . . Have treated Burke as a mere placeman and hack--albeit one with wit, cerebral depth and a marvellous turn of phrase. But reductionism of this sort won't do, as Richard Bourke shows in his erudite and compelling study of Burke's political life."--Colin Kidd, London Review of Books
"An intensely rewarding read, which combines careful historical scholarship and deep archival research with philosophical nuance and insight. . . . Sets a new standard in the field."--Jesse Norman MP, The Times
"Bourke’s forensic anatomising of both the underlying consistency of Burke’s commitments and also of the repeated misreadings to which his career has been subjected is a pleasure to read. Time and again Bourke skewers a misinterpretation with an acute discrimination. . . . The range and depth of Bourke’s research here, and his command of both the primary and secondary archives, is truly impressive. All future historians of ideas who intend to work on Burke will need to engage with the arguments of this book."--David Womersley, Standpoint
"Richard Bourke's Empire and Revolution is the finest of intellectual portraits . . . the definitive account of a life in ideas and politics. "--Gavin Jacobson, Financial Times
"The learning involved is deeply impressive, but the momentum of the overall argument is such that it carries its weight with elegance. . . . This book is a truly outstanding achievement. . . . It is the finest of all books on Edmund Burke."--Seamus Deane, Literary Review
Another Princeton book authored or coauthored by Richard Bourke: