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 "Volume I in a Scholarly Study of Freedom",
a review by Carroll Quigley in The Washington Sunday Star, November 19, 1961,
of a book:
Freedom in the Ancient World,
by Herbert J. Muller.
New York: Harper & Brothers, 1961


"Volume I in a Scholarly Study of Freedom"



By Herbert J. Muller.
Harpers; $7.50.


   This is the first volume in a multi-volume study of the history of human freedom in the Western tradition. Well informed, thoughtful, and presented in a straightforward style, it is worthy of Prof. Muller's reputation and outstanding previous works. If I were asked to recommend to a serious general reader an excellent history of antiquity, I should recommend this book; but I should have to add that it achieves its special aim, the history of human freedom, only in spots.

A five-page bibliography at the end of this volume lists the works of well-known scholars like Gordon Childe, Henri Frankfort, John A. Wilson, Karl Wittfogel, and S. N. Kramer. It is obvious that Prof. Muller has read these carefully, since echoes from them are to be found on every page of this book, and it is the better for this. The author has digested these works and added to them his own thinking, notably in an excellent, analysis of the psychological impact of the shift from the neolithic village to the earliest urban civilization (pp. 28-72).

Prof. Muller's inability in this work to carry out his special task, the history of human freedom, seems to me to rest on his failure to distinguish between "freedom" (the existence of alternative personal choices in a society) and "liberties" (the existence of a social pattern which permits a man to develop his potentialities). This distinction, which is the basis of a successful work like Ruggiero’s "History of European Liberalism" needs to be made in respect to ancient history as well. Prof. Muller confuses the two in his original definition of his subject (page xiii), and the rest of his work suffers from this. The chief consequence of this, I believe, is an under-appreciation of the contribution from Latin Christianity and an over-appreciation of the contribution of the Greek polis in the history of Western "freedom," but the volume still stands as an excellent account of ancient times.

—Carroll Quigley

Mr. Quigley, a professor of history in the Georgetown School of Foreign Service, is the author of the recently published "The Evolution of Civilizations" (Macmillan).


Scan of original review




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