The Lost History of Liberalism: From Ancient Rome to the Twenty-First Century

Helena Rosenblatt

My review 2021-05-02

Helena Rosenblatt traces the many strands of liberal thought and politics. Her main task, which she accomplishes very well, is to demolish the idea that what is today often called "classical liberalism" is classical in the sense of original. It is not. Liberalism has had many themes, free markets being just one of them. Her treatment also makes the point that liberal thought is not just a British and American affair, but that Germany, and in particular, France, was historically main arenas for liberal struggle against the monarchy, strong-man rule and the reactionary Catholic church. It is clear that Rosenblatt thinks this "lost history" of liberalism can provide much to further the debate, and I think she is right. Her epilogue does point to some ideas for future debate, but is far too short and circumspect to really drive home the message.