Beginning with the new worlds of the Renaissance and the Reformation, this book traces the growth of liberal doctrine through the advent of the French Revolution. It shows the relationship of liberalism to the emerging economic system of capitalism, and the impact of this relationship upon science, philosophy, and literature. Laski explains how the same causes which produced the socially active aspect of liberalism also inspired the growth of socialism. The contributions of men like Machiavelli, Locke, and Voltaire, the influence of the voyages of discovery, and the effect of the Puritan Rebellion are among the special topics discussed.
The Rise of European Liberalism is a historical survey of the development of liberal thought, from its earliest whispers in early Protestantism to its significance in the "Red Decade" of the 1930s. Laski argues that liberalism as a philosophy came into existence with the rise of capitalism and thus functions primarily as an ideological defense of private property in a business civilization. Hence, liberalism's progressive side is doomed to defeat because, throughout its history, the bourgeois nature of the ideology has always prevailed.
In the new introduction, John Stanley traces the history and influences of Laski's thought and provides a detailed analysis of Laski's work. The essay provides a coherent study in itself of why Laski is better remembered than widely read. The Rise of European Liberalism is a classic text that deserves rediscovery for historians, philosophers, sociologists, and political scientists of the present day.