How We Invented Freedom

How We Invented Freedom and Why it Matters, by Daniel Hannan.

Published by Had of Zeus. 400 pages.

Boris Johnson, Mayor London, says Hannan bestrides the Atlantic “like a majestic combination of Winston Churchill and Piers Morgan”. Unless his tongue is firmly in his Tory cheek he probably meant Churchill and Professor William Empson.

For in this elevated work of scholarship we in Rotorua might be intrigued to learn how Democracy can assume varying cadences to suit cuts of administration.

Hannan traverses the globe, back and forth, as he encapsulates the Anglosphere.

Not that he has overlooked the influences of other languages; he admits, after all, to being an Hispanophile.

New Zealand figures strongly in his introductory chapters, two fattish stick insect islands which committed troops to two major world conflicts.

In the second Michael Joseph Savage’s “where Britain goes we go” is aired, with the author intrigued British colonies like New Zealand, Australia and Canada should flock to aid Great Britain.

What would MJS think today? In 1918, a Maori chief observed we were better off under British rule than, say, Samoa was under Germany.

He said, inter alia, “For 78 years we have been, not under the rule of the British, but taking part in the ruling ourselves … the foundations of British sovereignty are based on the eternal principles of liberty, equity and justice”.

We also learn that the famous Abraham Lincoln quote used so liberally these days for political effect was not written by Lincoln, but by theologian John Wycliffe, quoting a 14th Century Holy Scriptures translation which began, “This Bible is for the government of  the people…” etc.

The Gunpowder Plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament was the 17th Century’s 9/11, writes Hannan, who seems disgusted along with visitors to the UK November 5 is annually marked with bonfires and burning of effigies.

Hannan is the Conservative MEP for South East England and a regular blogger for the Daily Telegraph. His elongated summary – can any study on the influence of the English language be the last word? – is scholarly and engaging.

Unlike some academic tomes once put down you don’t want to pick them up again, this, to the eager among us looking for extra intellectual nourishment, is unputdownable.

Phil Campbell, QSM.

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