'I was exhausted at the end, & yet I am sure that if ever I saw & heard anyone in a true state of inspiration it was then.'
So wrote a listener to her friend after attending one of the lectures based on the book. Political Ideas in the Romantic Age is the text Berlin wrote for four of the lectures, delivered in 1952.
'I was exhausted at the end, & yet I am sure that if ever I saw & heard anyone in a true state of inspiration it was then.' So wrote Isaiah Berlin's secretary Lelia Brodersen to a friend in 1952, after hearing one of Berlin's Mary Flexner Lectures at Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania. POLITICAL IDEAS IN THE ROMANTIC AGE, written in preparation for these lectures, was heavily revised by Berlin afterwards, though he never brought it to final published form. But it is a work of the greatest interest, both for what Berlin says about his subject and for what it tells us about his own intellectual development. It is the only text he ever wrote in which he laid out in one connected account most of his key insights about the history of ideas in the period which he made his own - the 'romantic age' - the bridge between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Written in Berlin's characteristically accessible style, the book also contains much that is not to be found elsewhere in his writings. It is also the mine from which he quarried a number of his best-known later publications, including 'Two Concepts of Liberty', 'Historical Inevitability' and his essays on Vico and Herder. The often problematic text left by Berlin has been edited for publication by Henry Hardy. Joshua L. Cherniss has contributed an introduction which sets the book in the context of Berlin's life and work.
Isaiah Berlin was born in Riga, now capital of Latvia, in 1909. When he was six, his family moved to Russia, and in Petrograd in 1917 Berlin witnessed both Revolutions - Social Democratic and Bolshevik. In 1921 he and his parents emigrated to England, where he was educated at St Paul's School, London, and Corpus Christi College, Oxford. Apart from his war service in New York, Washington, Moscow and Leningrad, he remained at Oxford thereafter - as a Fellow of All Souls, then of New College, as Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory, and as founding President of Wolfson College. He also held the Presidency of the British Academy. His published work includes Karl Marx, Russian Thinkers, Concepts and Categories, Against the Current, Personal Impressions, The Sense of Reality, The Proper Study of Mankind, The Roots of Romanticism, The Power of Ideas, Three Critics of the Enlightenment, Freedom and Its Betrayal, Liberty, The Soviet Mind and Political Ideas in the Romantic Age. As an exponent of the history of ideas he was awarded the Erasmus, Lippincott and Agnelli Prizes; he also received the Jerusalem Prize for his lifelong defence of civil liberties. He died in 1997.
A fine introduction to Berlin's thought, and a major addition to the corpus of his work Literary Review Indispensable for anyone interested in the history of ideas and the development of liberal thought -- John Gray New York Review of Books A dense, demanding, but often exciting book -- Carole Angier Daily Telegraph An event of major importance... Hitherto, students of Berlin have been like explorers searching for the source of the Nile, but with only a network of streams to go by, not a single river; now they can stand on the shores of their very own Lake Victoria, gazing at the mighty reservoir itself -- Noel Malcolm Sunday Telegraph
Isaiah Berlin's longest continuous work - and therefore of key importance to anyone interested in the history of ideas.