An Extended Seminar with Ralph Raico
The lessons we draw from history depend on what we regard as the main theme of history. Professor Ralph Raico, as the leading classical liberal historian of our time, believes that the main theme is also the most neglected: the rise of liberty against the despotism of the state.
In pursuing this theme in this wonderful classroom course, Raico is taking up a project initiated by the brilliant 19th century historian Lord Acton, and variously pursued by great scholars such as Mises, Hayek, and Rothbard. Raico discusses the origin of the idea of liberty, its growth, its friends and enemies throughout history, and its possible future.
As Raico makes clear, the history of liberty is intertwined with the history of Europe and its outposts—-the Europe that has been sometimes defined as extending from Warsaw to San Francisco. Raico argues that the idea of liberty arose specifically in Western Christendom for geographic, intellectual, ideological, and theological reasons. He discusses the events, ideas, debates, and institutions that were crucial in the process of creating the "European miracle" of the most astonishing advance of civilization in history.
Throughout this 10-lecture course, Raico draws attention to literature, personalities, and events that made the difference. Most importantly, Raico discusses the origin and effects of what Ludwig von Mises called the "primordial thing: the idea of freedom from the state." The roots of this idea extend far back into the middle ages and the early centuries of Christianity. They came to fruition in the Industrial Revolution, which is vigorously defended, and were never more assaulted than in the French and Bolshevik Revolutions. The relationship between liberty and empire is also discussed, with special reference to the problem of American imperialism.
This course would be enormously valuable in any time, but it is especially essential in ours when the theme of liberty has been so neglected in scholarly literature and the popular press. This course serves as an antidote to what many have learned in their colleges and universities, which have demonized the history of Europe as one long period of exploitation and genocide. The best response to this calumny, Raico shows, is a detailed survey of the ideas, peoples, technologies, achievements, not in order to dismiss the crimes of the men of power but to draw attention to the rare accomplishments of the idea of liberty itself.
Ralph Raico, professor of European history at Buffalo State College and Schlarbaum laureate, is the author of a history of German liberalism, Die Partei der Freiheit, and such articles as "World War I: The Turning Point" and "Rethinking Churchill" in the The Costs of War. Raico has a gift for presenting history in a manner that is authoritative, clear, calm, and systematic, but also rich in detail and filled with moral passion. They are graduate-level lectures that can also be of enormous valuable for anyone from high school to lifetime learners of any age. This is a set of lectures to treasure and learn from again and again.
Ten high quality MP3 audio files on one compact disc, in jewel case with a comprehensive bibliography in PDF by David Gordon.
These lectures are, simply put, a treasure trove. Professor Raico's erudition and brilliance is made manifest in every word spoken. The listener is given a whirlwind tour from the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215 to the prospects for liberty in the future, along the way addressing in detail the Industrial Revolution, the rise of Communism, and World War I from a classical liberal perspective. A major reason for the success of these lectures is Professor Raico's personality. No dry and monotonous reciter of facts, Professor Raico's sarcasm is both hilarious and instructive; his sense of indignation inspiring; and to top it all off, he has an extremely commanding and compelling voice.
Buy these lectures if you're able; listen to them for free on the Mises.org if you're not. Either way, you will cherish them and benefit immensely.
If this is the same lecture I bought on tape from Laissez Faire Books a decade ago, it is outstanding! Raico weaves a narrative of the battle for individual liberty against power in a way that captured my imagination and brought these potentially dry concepts to life.
My tapes were of a live lecture and suffered some sound quality issues; if these technical shortcomings have been addressed, I'll gladly re-purchase the lecture so I can listen to it again and again. It is the quintessential answer to the question of history's relevance to our lives.
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