Synopses & Reviews
‘To make a revolution is to subvert the ancient state of our country; and no common reasons are called for to justify so violent a proceeding’
Burke’s seminal work was written during the early months of the French Revolution, and it predicted with uncanny accuracy many of its worst excesses, including the Reign of Terror. A scathing attack on the revolution’s attitudes to existing institutions, property and religion, it makes a cogent case for upholding inherited rights and established customs, argues for piecemeal reform rather than revolutionary change – and deplores the influence Burke feared the revolution might have in Britain. Reflections on the Revolution in France is now widely regarded as a classic statement of conservative political thought, and is one of the eighteenth century’s great works of political rhetoric.
Conor Cruise O’Brien’s introduction examines the contemporary political situation in England and Ireland and its influence on Burke’s point of view. He highlights Burke’s brilliant grasp of social and political forces and discusses why the book has remained so significant for over two centuries.
Burke's Reflections (1790) predicted with uncanny accuracy the Reign of Terror which lay ahead . . . The book, however, is far more than a supremely eloquent piece of occasional writing. For Burke is without doubt the foremost conservative British political thinker: in his support for piecemeal reform rather than revolutionary change, in his sceptical belief in expediency and practical wisdom rather than abstract theorizing, in his defence of property, religion and traditional institutions. On all these topics Burke gave a definitive expression to a set of attitudes still at the heart of today's controversies. And yet Burke was no mere unthinking reactionary, a useful ally in Cold War propaganda; rather, as Conor Cruise O'Brien shows in his brilliant introduction, he was an Irishman with a good deal of sympathy for the 'revolutionary' Catholic cause - a latent sympathy which, paradoxically, may explain some of the unparalleled power of this great work.
Burke was no mere unthinking reactionary. Rather, as Conor Cruise O'Brien shows in his introduction, he was an Irishman with a good deal of smypathy for the "revolutionary" Catholic cause - a latent sympathy which, paradoxically, may explain some of the power of this work.
About the Author
Edmund Burke (1729-1797) was born in Dublin and educated at Trinity College. A lifelong member of Parliament, Burke was the author of A Philosophical Enquiry into the Sublime and Beautiful, A Vindication of Natural Society, and Reflections on the Revolution in France.
Table of Contents
Burke's Prefatory Note
Reflections on the Revolution in France