This book is a celebration of the English-speaking world, its language and law by Conservative MEP Dan Hannan, and a reminder of the importance of freedom and the rule of law.
How We Invented Freedom and Why It Matters by Dan Hannan (Head of Zeus).
- Review by Ed West, The Catholic Herald.
Americans take Magna Carta seriously – so seriously that when a copy was taken to New York in 1939 some 14 million people came to see it.
Perhaps we should take it seriously too, because with the triumph of the English-speaking powers after 1945, we have forgotten how lucky we are to have individual freedom, the rule of law and property rights – or, indeed, how unusual these are.
Hannan, a French and Spanish speaker who grew up in Latin America, emphasises how improbable the English system is.
On top of law and language the third leg of this structure is religion. Protestantism was central to the Whig vision. Yet Hannan, an Englishman who comes from mixed Irish/Scottish, Protestant/Catholic background, is sensitive to our sectarian history and puts it in context.
His greatest achievement may be to have separated the Whig theory of history from its hallmark anti-Catholic prejudice. Long before the Reformation, or even before John Wycliffe translated his Bible, Catholic England was undergoing changes that would mark it out from its continental neighbours.
In England, in contrast to its neighbours, 'there was almost no notion of shared ownership.' This had a huge impact on English society, including on the system of law.
The Magna Carta was more than a mere document. It was an idea supported by the people of the kingdom.
Hannan traces this idea back to the Anglo-Saxon period and earlier.
In America, as in Britain, 'liberty' was entwined with anti-Catholic bigotry. But that was to do with ideology rather than theology. That all mellowed in the 19th century, when England became home to refugees from a virulent anti-Catholic regime that professed a new ideology of abstract rights, one that English-speakers were effectively immune to. As Benjamin Disraeli said: 'To the liberalism they profess, I prefer the liberty we enjoy; to the Rights of Man, the rights of Englishmen.'
Read full review: Magna Carta – the document that changed England and the world (The Catholic Herald)
How we invented freedom – and why it matters (The Telegraph)
Book Review: 'Inventing Freedom' by Daniel Hannan (The Wall Street Journal)
Dan Hannan on Liberty, Western Civilisation & Australia (CIS/YouTube)