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How We Invented Freedom & Why It Matters [Hardcover]

Daniel Hannan
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
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Book Description

19 Nov 2013

This book tells the story of freedom and explains how it is a uniquely 'British', rather than 'Western', invention. It shows how the inhabitants of a damp island at the western tip of the Eurasian landmass stumbled upon the extraordinary idea that the state was the servant, and not the master, of the individual.

This revolutionary concept created security of property and contract which, in turn, led to industrialization and modern capitalism. For the first time in the history of the species, a system grew up which, on the whole, rewarded production over predation. The system was carried across the oceans by English-speakers - sometimes colonial administrators, sometimes patriotic settlers - where in Philadelphia 1787, it was distilled into its purest and most sublime form as the US Constitution.

Freedom is the key to the success of the English-speaking peoples and this book teaches us to keep fast to that legacy and, in our turn, to pass it intact to the next generation.

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How We Invented Freedom & Why It Matters + A Doomed Marriage: Britain and Europe + Why America Must Not Follow Europe (Encounter Broadsides)
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Head of Zeus (19 Nov 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781857547
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781857540
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15.4 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 74,142 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'A magnificent achievement. Hannan's prose coruscates, and he has a fine eye for anecdotal detail. He bestrides the Atlantic like a majestic combination of Winston Churchill and Piers Morgan' Boris Johnson, Mayor of London.

'A brilliant book, and among the most readable works of political theory I have ever come across' Andrew Roberts.

'A very enjoyable, engaging and robust work' Evening Standard.

'Well constructed and researched' Financial Times.

'Hannan sweeps us through English history with incredible ingenuity' Daily Telegraph.

'Well written, well researched, well worth reading' Observer.

'Hannan creates a sparkling narrative that deserves to be read ... his rational optimism will provide not just an insightful look at the past, but also a beacon pointing to a future' Catholic Herald.

About the Author

Daniel Hannan has been Conservative MEP for South East England since 1999. His speech against Gordon Brown in 2010 is the most watched political video in Britain. He blogs regularly at and for the Daily Telegraph.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
49 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Some Home Truths 27 Nov 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I have been following this author on the Daily Telegraph blogs for the last 5 years and this is the first fully fledged book of his that I purchased. Whereas his comments on the Telegraph Blogs has a political undertone, this book is refreshingly non-political but definitely ideological. As to whether you agree with the author's ideological stance or not, you can't get away from the fact that he is a skilled writer who doesn't bore the reader.

I must hasten to add that I did work for a number of years in Latin America and during that time I had the good fortune to visit Peru on various occasions. Interspersing his narrative with snippets and examples from the history of Peru made the book that more interesting for me to read. And like the author, I am also an admirer of the Spanish/South American culture and find his comparisons between the Latin (Spanish colonial) and British colonial experiences so fitting, appropriate, and refreshing.

This a serious book that is easy to read and would make an ideal Christmas present for the political animal - as all families have - in the family.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Empire Strikes Back 26 Mar 2014
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This is a ride through history from the birth of England . Its central thesis is that the Common Law of England combined with the Whig values of individual freedom and personal property rights have led to the overwhelming success of the English speaking world.
Hannan's argues entertainingly and convincingly for "Anglophone exceptionalism".

I am not always convinced of his arguments but it takes an effort to stand back from the excellent prose and consider his case rationally. Was the British Empire one of the greatest forces for good? You decide.
Well worth a read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars how we invented freedom and why it matters 28 Jan 2014
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A long overdue declaration of the extent to which England has shaped the values which we hold so dear but often take for granted. England should apologise less and remind others of the legacy it has been given and should cherish.
As Churchill said, more or less "democracy is the worst for m of government, except for all the others"
Once freedom has gone, it rarely comes back peacefully.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book full of answers! 23 Jan 2014
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What a high-handed conceit that title appears to be! It is almost as if he challenges himself to justify it.
This is essentially a history of the Anglosphere, that loose association of peoples that is bound by the English language, a common heritage, and so much more. Hannan explains how serendipity and Anglo-Saxon bloody-mindedness forged a particular type of freedom that became the envy of other nations who could never quite understand it. It was exported around the world by migration and colonialism. The more you read the more you appreciate how precious it is.
Not for the first time, it is in danger - not least from complacency. That is why it is important to understand why it matters.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Politics is not a spectator sport! 8 Jan 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
If you are interested in liberty and its safeguards you will enjoy this book even if you don't agree with everything the authors says or with his view of English history. It is very timely with referendums coming up on Scottish independence and renegotiation of the UK's membership of the EU.
Daniel explains, in a lucid, felicitous style, why he thinks we must treasure and protect our English liberties against the ever-encroaching state. He skips through about 1500 years of history from the perspective of the expanding 'anglosphere' with England at its core, showing how our parliamentary institutions and independent judiciary, personal liberty, sanctity of contract and rule of law developed from the folkmoots of our Anglo-Saxon ancestors. It's 'use them or lose them' and at the moment we look like losing them to apathy. Relying on the ever-ready state is replacing self-reliance. Daniel shows how unusual such liberties are in a world where law is mainly made by the state rather than derived from the people.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A geat read! 27 Dec 2013
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I have always been interested in British history, but struggled to fit it into a consistent narrative. This book supplies a convincing, as well as an uplifting one. I would even suggest that something along the lines of this book's thesis could usefully be incorporated into school history curricula.

One of the principal ideas in this book is that the liberty inherent in the political system of the anglosphere nations owes a great deal to our systems of common law. This idea is understood by few of us, and probably far fewer, if any, people of other cultures. If this book helps more people recognise our magnificent common law heritage, then it will have done a great service to us all. I recommend Hayek's "Law, Legislation and Liberty" on this subject.

I recommend this book to all those English people who feel vaguely embarrassed entertaining patriotic thoughts.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding lesson in the values of freedom 7 Feb 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Daniel Hannan writes in the most accessible and compelling way to trace the history of our fight for freedom of the individual. Much of the book has topical relevance. It is all too easy to see through his eyes the threats we face from power-hungry political and religious extremists. Their intrusions into our lives too often smother our desire for independence. But, as he so compellingly traces our progress from the earliest times, this is nothing new except that the English speaking peoples have been almost unique in their determination to stay free.
A really inspiring read from a highly skilled writer.
Shame that political opponents and rivals will undoubtedly do everything possible to downplay the considerable value of this work.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Always look forward to reading or listening to anything by this...
It's Daniel Hannan, what can i say? Sheer eloquence.
Published 7 days ago by Ga Molyneux
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read
Worth reading. A bit narrow in its view, but generally an easy read.
Published 14 days ago by Paul M. Mather
5.0 out of 5 stars A panoramic view of freedom and liberty.
A panoramic view of freedom and liberty . An essential read for those in politics and the police who often loose their understanding of and these things and for short term... Read more
Published 26 days ago by DAVID BRYCE
5.0 out of 5 stars A penetrating warning.
The book illustrates to the impartial reader that the E.U. Is anti-democratic in terms of Anglosphere principles of individual freedom. Read more
Published 26 days ago by Jack Owen
5.0 out of 5 stars great book
The best analysis of history I have ever read. It should be read by young people and all having any influence on British policy.
Published 1 month ago by David Wyatt
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
quite hard going but worth the effort
Published 1 month ago by Mrs. Ew Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars sublime
The best expose on why the English speaking people are who they are and why they need to retain their essential characteristics. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Roving Scot
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
The first half is good, but he goes on too long and pads it out
Published 2 months ago by james iain hamilton
4.0 out of 5 stars This is worth reading.
I'm not by any means a conservative, but I enjoyed this book. Daniel Hannan is clearly very patriotic, but he also understands why we should be proud of Britain's historical... Read more
Published 2 months ago by John
5.0 out of 5 stars what a history lesson!
This should be available in schools, we should make all aware of our heritage. It has been almost lost recently.
Published 2 months ago by Christine Winn
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