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Power Tends to Corrupt
Lord Acton’s Study of Liberty
"Christopher Lazarski of Warsaw University has put together a superb book on Lord Actons history of liberty....We are treated to a deep look into the conditions of liberty within Western civilization and its polities as these have thrived or decomposed under authoritarian weight." –The University Bookman
“. . . [I]t should be noted that the book demonstrates an impressive synthesis of a great variety of material from the Acton archives and thus represents a serious academic achievement within the field of Acton studies.” —Kenneth B. McIntyre, The Journal of Modern History
Lord Acton (1834–1902) is often called a historian of liberty. A great historian and political thinker, he had a rare talent for reaching beneath the surface and revealing the hidden springs that move the world. While endeavoring to understand the components of a truly free society, Acton attempted to see how the principles of self-determination and freedom worked in practice, from antiquity to his own time. But though he penned hundreds of papers, essays, reviews, letters, and ephemera, the ultimate book of his findings and views on the history of liberty remained unwritten. Reading a book a day for years, he still could not keep pace with the output of his time, and finally, dejected, he gave up. Today, Acton is mainly known for a single maxim, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
In Power Tends to Corrupt, Christopher Lazarski presents the first indepth consideration of Acton’s thought in more than fifty years. Lazarski brings Acton’s work to light in accessible language, with a focus on his understanding of liberty and its development in Western history. A work akin to Acton’s overall account of the history of liberty, with a secondary look at his political theory, this book is an outstanding exegesis of the theories and findings of one of the nineteenth century’s keenest minds.
Christopher Lazarski is associate dean in the School of International Relations at Lazarski University, Warsaw, and the author of The Lost Opportunity: Attempts at Unification of the Anti-Bolsheviks.
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