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on 10 March 2014
If only political commentators had the quaity of prose of Burke, and his persuasive logical argument, supported by knowledge and learning. Why haven't read it before?
A must for anyone interested in the bankrupcy and futility of revolution,which in history have very often brought more chaos and hardship, than they tried to cure
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on 22 June 2016
Excellent writing and socio-political observation from a contemporary and informed source.
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on 20 June 2016
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on 28 December 2014
Gets better each day that I look through it.
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on 2 August 2008
Edmund Burke's tour de force, demolishing Jacobin upstarts and naive, utopian aristocrats alike, is a witty, intelligent and lively work which has rightly gone down in history as a seminal conservative text.

These reflections were first published in 1790, around a year after the Revolution began; before the monarchy had been overthrown and before the King was executed; before the Reign of Terror began which would result in great bloodshed. Burke was initially dismissed as an alarmist reactionary by many but as the Revolution culminated in the grotesque abuses of the guillotine and the rise to power of a military dictator, which he predicted in this text, Burke was hailed as a prophet and was vindicated in his wise warnings.

Without regard to fashionable and trendy abstract theories Burke defended prejudice, tradition and custom against the 'enlightened' intellectuals who thought they ought to rule in place of those born in the purple. Burke claimed that society is a contract, although a contract between those who are living, those who are dead and those who are yet to be born. Those who are alive must not posses dictatorial powers over the majority constituents of this contract, the dead and the unborn, but must work in accordance with traditions and be aware that they are but trustees of an inheritance which they must pass on to the next generation.

For Burke prejudices were the "bank and capital of nations and of ages" which make habits out of virtues. Prejudices give people instinctive responses in moments of decision and do not leave people hesitating in an emergency. The revolutionaries rejected all ideas repugnant to their individual reasoning and were bigotedly self-satisfied in their own way of thinking; they had "no respect for the wisdom of others; but they pay it off by a very full measure of confidence in their own". By destroying established authority on the grounds that it was irrational or unjust the revolutionaries eroded the stability of their country and made the intervention of a "popular general" who would restore order inevitable. This was borne out when General Napoleon took control over France on the 18th Brumaire in 1799 and proceeded to try and conquer all of Europe until finally defeated by the counter-revolutionary forces of Britain and Prussia at Waterloo in 1815.

The description of Burke's visit to the French court where he witnessed Marie Antoinette on the horizon is probably one of the finest pieces of English literature I have ever read. The emotions; awe, outrage and anger all wrapped up to express Burke's indignation that 'the age of chivalry is gone' and that the 'glory of Europe is extinguished for ever'. According to one of Burke's correspondents Marie Antoinette was shown this passage whilst she was held captive and before she could finish reading it she had burst into tears and took considerable time to recover before she could read the rest.

One must remember that Burke was writing this letter to a French nobleman who obviously knew more than Burke on what was happening in France and so would not have needed a narrative of the political goings-on.

This edition, edited by historian of eighteenth-century Britain, J. C. D. Clark, is the most helpful for students. It includes a lengthy introduction exploring Burke's identity as a Whig, his ideas on the Glorious Revolution, the background to the "Reflections", its political theory, and Burke's career afters its publication. Unlike other editions, this edition includes a detailed table of contents for Burke's text as he never divided his letter into chapters. This is extremely helpful for the reader, as are the numerous footnotes.
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on 2 October 2014
Read in conjunction with Wollstonecraft. Fairly important in any study of the revolution.
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on 25 June 2017
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on 8 February 2011
"Reflections" is ostensibly a tract attacking the French Revolution of 1789 but in reality its importance is its case for conservatism. The polemical nature of the book means that it is not a systematic analysis so one has to search for Burke's conservative principles.

One of his most important principles is "prescription", by which the possession of property and authority are given (at least some) legitimacy by the passage of time. Burke did not oppose all change but believed that if things are going well then they are best left alone. He wrote "A state without the means of change is without the means of its conservation", but believed that change should be for "proved abuses". Burke saw society as organic, as a "partnership" bridging all generations. In typical Burkean language he wrote that citizens "should approach the faults of the state as to the wounds of a father, with pious awe and trembling solicitude." As in any natural organism change must be slow and gradual. He observed that "I do not like to see anything destroyed, any void produced in society." He was, of course, opposed to abstract theories that he thought at best irrelevant and at worst dangerous. Society, thought Burke, needed not abstract reasoning but practical and pragmatic statesmen. He was even more opposed to revolution for it leads to excesses and unintended results.

Not surprisingly Burke stresses the importance of codes of conduct, custom and what he called "prejudice". He writes of the "pleasing illusions" that constitute "the decent drapery of life". These "antient opinions and rules of life" include politeness, deference, the chivalrous treatment of women, the "spirit of a gentleman" and the "spirit of religion". Much of this "decent drapery of life" plus respect for social superiors and authority depends on "prejudice", which is a settled inclination of mind that prompts an individual to act (virtuously) without thinking why. (Today we would call it social conditioning!) Burke argues that prejudice is not irrational for it allows people to draw on the nation's collective wisdom (which Burke calls its "bank and capital) to supplement their own inadequate powers of reason.

In using prescription to justify existing institutions, Burke defended the unequal division of property, wealth and power, plus the social hierarchy that characterised the age in which he lived. He declared (with the French Revolution in mind) that a state ruled by men such as hairdressers and tallow-chandlers would "suffer oppression", and though ability must be represented it was vital that property should "be out of all proportion predominant in the representation". He believed that in all states there are necessarily differences in status and power, and that power is best placed in the hands of men brought up from childhood with an appropriate education, status, and a sense of mission. In other words a "natural aristocracy" that had the duty of using authority for the good of all.

This support for inequality looks out-dated to 21st century readers but many of Burke's other ideas were to continue to flourish as canons of conservatism. "Reflections" is well worth reading not only for its exposition of conservative principles that so strongly influenced political thought in the following century but also as a powerfully written and prophetic polemic about the French Revolution.
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on 17 February 2014
This book was in excellent condition as described by the seller on its arrival. reading the first chapter I must write it was not portrayed as I had thought but based on a letter from the aurthor Edmund Burke to an another political thinker in France. Perhaps best used for supporting reference to university studies more than a broader opinion of the French Reveolution
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on 27 July 2017
This is not an easy read but it is very interesting & an important dissertation.
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