Edmund burke

The British Empire’s latest crime – to have ended the Enlightenment

What is the Enlightenment, and when did it come to an end? Neither are easy questions to answer. The Enlightenment, as a historical phenomenon or a phenomenon of ideas, coalesced into an attempt to rid humanity of rigid superstitions and fanaticism and liberate it from tyranny of every sort. Its first movements were discernible in Europe in the 17th century, and it became a continent-wide experiment of thought in the following one. But when did it end – as the title of Richard Whatmore’s book takes for granted? There’s a good case for stating that it never came to an end. Once tyranny and religious certainty were dismissed as universal

A written constitution is no defence against authoritarian government

No one can accuse Linda Colley of shying away from big subjects. This one is as big as they come — nothing less than an exploration of the origin of written constitutions. It is built around two ideas. One is that the development of national constitutions has to be studied globally, not nationally. Only then can consistent patterns emerge. The other is that there is a consistent pattern. The great generator of written constitutions, she argues, is war. The argument is that war requires an exceptionally high degree of social organisation which makes a formal constitution desirable, perhaps even necessary. The Gun, the Ship and the Pen is a remarkable