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The Perversions of History: Constitutionalism and Revolution in Burke's Reflections

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Ian Ward


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Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France is one of the defining texts in the history of English constitutional thought. It is conservative in its overt defence of England's ancient constitution, and in particular the twin bulwarks of Church and Crown. In more immediate terms, it was written against those who appeared to sympathise with the principles of the French revolution, men such as Joseph Price and Tom Paine. But the true 'genius' of Burke, as Wordsworth famously noted, does not lie in the surface defence of traditional conservative institutions and principles. It lies, rather, in an appreciation that constitutions are aesthetic expressions, their vitality dependent upon the strength of the political imagination which they strive to shape and to nurture. What is truly distinctive about Burke's Reflections accordingly is that it was written as a poetic as much as a political treatise. The purpose of this essay is to explore this genius and this poetic. © 2010 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Ward I

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Liverpool Law Review

Year: 2010

Volume: 31

Issue: 3

Pages: 207-232

Print publication date: 17/12/2010

ISSN (print): 0144-932X

ISSN (electronic): 1572-8625

Publisher: Springer Netherlands


DOI: 10.1007/s10991-010-9085-6


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