Towards the Light

AC Grayling

Towards the Light

The often-violent conflicts of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries were sparked by the pursuit of freedom of thought. In time, this drive led to bitter fighting, including the English Civil War. Then came revolutions in America and France that swept away monarchies for more representative forms of government and making possible the abolition of slavery, the enfranchisement of women, and the idea of universal human rights and freedoms. Each of these struggles was a memorable human drama, and Grayling interweaves the stories of these heroes, including Martin Luther, Mary Wollstonecraft and Rosa Parks, whose sacrifices make us value these precious rights, especially in an age when governments under pressure find it necessary to restrict rights in the name of freedom. 4.2 out of 5 based on 8 reviews
Towards the Light

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Society, Politics & Philosophy
Format Paperback
Pages 352
RRP £8.99
Date of Publication September 2008
ISBN 978-0747592990
Publisher Bloomsbury
 

The often-violent conflicts of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries were sparked by the pursuit of freedom of thought. In time, this drive led to bitter fighting, including the English Civil War. Then came revolutions in America and France that swept away monarchies for more representative forms of government and making possible the abolition of slavery, the enfranchisement of women, and the idea of universal human rights and freedoms. Each of these struggles was a memorable human drama, and Grayling interweaves the stories of these heroes, including Martin Luther, Mary Wollstonecraft and Rosa Parks, whose sacrifices make us value these precious rights, especially in an age when governments under pressure find it necessary to restrict rights in the name of freedom.

Reviews

The Sydney Morning Herald

Richard King

Given that many of the gains described in this brilliant and indispensable book were achieved in the teeth of religious opposition (for Grayling, indeed, the story of liberty is one more chapter in the mighty struggle to get the clerics "off our backs"), it is something of a sad and bitter irony that the recent erosion of our civil liberties should have come as a direct response to another assault on civil society from a group of deeply pious individuals who believed they had a divine warrant for mass murder.

03/11/2007

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The Independent

Nicholas Fearn

Grayling charts the progress of liberty from its modern roots in the Reformation through the end of absolute monarchy to contemporary conventions on human rights, pointing out every bloodstain on the way. He warns us not to view this story as one of inexorable progress.

16/11/2007

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The Observer

Alex Larman

Although he is writing from a libertarian perspective, Grayling makes his arguments as neutral and factual as possible, assessing historical evidence at every turn. The final force of his attack on what he sees as a betrayal by our contemporary politicians carries the weight of justified, righteous anger.

21/09/2008

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The Daily Telegraph

Jane O'Grady

Liberalism tolerates intolerance, scuppers the universal objectivity it aims for, nurtures both ancient and new-fangled idiocies. Grayling does not tackle this paradox, but lucidly and courageously grapples with its ominous results.

10/11/2007

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The Times

Ross Leckie

But his timely admonition is that we should understand and respect our liberty, or lose it. It was won with difficulty, but could be lost with ease, he argues, for example by the “bureaucratic despotism” that new technology allows or by our own governments' actions “in the spurious hope of achieving ‘security' against terrorism”. This, though, is the least satisfying aspect of the book. If current policies are anti-libertarian, how should the West respond to hostile Muslim fundamentalism?The rest, in which Grayling charts the troubled course of liberty, is magnificent.

19/09/2008

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The Spectator

Edward Skidelsky

Towards the Light... sets us up for a rollicking defence of Freedom and Enlightenment in the style of Tom Paine or William Godwin. And that is exactly what we get. This is the story of modern Europe as told by a 19th-century liberal secularist, updated but not fundamentally rethought.

10/10/2007

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The Sunday Times

Roger Scruton

Grayling’s scholarly account of these and other heroes makes up for his one-dimensional view of Western history, in which the Good forces of liberty, secularism, democracy, equality and enlightenment are locked in “struggle” (how I hate that word!) with the Bad forces of religion, authority, hierarchy, inequality and darkness. Grayling is surely right to believe that people aspire to freedom and light; but he cannot see, from his ivory tower, that they also need obedience and shadows.

30/09/2007

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The Independent

John Morrish

This is not a book that works steadily through a topic. Instead, chronological and thematic approaches tend to clash; you think he's finished with a character or a subject and moved on, only for him to circle back on himself.

18/11/2007

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