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Idealism and Revolution: T.H. Green's Four Lectures on the English Commonwealth

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In January 1867 T.H. Green gave a series of Four Lectures on the English Commonwealth to the Edinburgh Philosophical Institute, which were then published, on the testimony of 'competent judges', in the third volume of his Collected Works edited by R.L. Nettleship. Green's family background ensured that he had strong interests in the history of Puritanism and the figure of Oliver Cromwell, and he was thoroughly immersed in many of the political and religious controversies of the later quarter of the nineteenth century. Nevertheless, his assessment of the English Commonwealth as a fruit of the Reformation, rather than as a discrete transformation in political culture, has received relatively little attention in the massive literature devoted to Green's political philosophy. This essay assesses these lectures in order to show their importance for understanding in particular his analysis of freedom. It argues that without an understanding of his account of the origins of modern legal freedom born out of the English Revolution, analyses of Green's theory of freedom remain partial and incomplete. It does so by illustrating in detail the content of the lectures, the intellectual and historical debates in English philosophy and German theology that buttressed his arguments, by locating Green's Lectures within wider accounts of the character of English exceptionalism, and by attempting to examine the political context that helped to structure Green's analysis.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Politics, University of Sheffield, Northumberland Road, Sheffield, S10 2TU, Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 01 January 2006

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