Different enlightenments

Posted by Tory Historian Friday, October 22, 2010 , ,

Tory Historian is mortified by neglecting to celebrate the anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar yesterday. Sackcloth and ashes are the order of the day. Instead, time has been spent on reading Gertrude Himmelfarb's The Roads to Modernity, which separates what she calls the three different Enlightenments: British, French and American, and restores the British one to its historic importance.

The three can be characterized as Sociology of Virtue, Ideology of Reason and Politics of Liberty. There were many links between them and cross-pollination of ideas but they were different and led to different political developments.

This is not to say that ideas were the determining factor in each of these countries. The historical situations were obviously, perhaps decisively, different. As Britain had earlier experience a religious Reformation, so it had also undergone a "Glorious Revolution", which gave promise of being a permanent political settlement. France, having had neither a religious reformation nor a political revolution, was, in a sense, ripe for both. And America, having had both as a legacy from Britain, sought the independence that it claimed as part of that legacy.
Tory Historian is particularly interested in the distinction Professor Himmelfarb will be making between the British and the American versions of the Enlightenment.

1 Responses to Different enlightenments

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