Throwback Thursday with Isaiah Berlin: The Roots of Romanticism

The Roots of Romanticism was first published by Princeton in 1998. The new edition will be available this month! The Roots of Romanticism is a series of Berlin’s famed Mellon lectures that were originally delivered in Washington in 1965 and broadcasted by the BBC. Take a look at the covers for the 1998 edition and the 2013 edition!

4-1 roots BOTH

“For Berlin, the Romantics set in motion a vast, unparalleled revolution in humanity’s view of itself. They destroyed the traditional notions of objective truth and validity in ethics with incalculable, all-pervasive results. As he said of the Romantics elsewhere: “The world has never been the same since, and our politics and morals have been deeply transformed by them. Certainly this has been the most radical, and indeed dramatic, not to say terrifying, change in men’s outlook in modern times.”

In these brilliant lectures Berlin surveys the myriad attempts to define Romanticism, distills its essence, traces its developments from its first stirrings to its apotheosis, and shows how its lasting legacy permeates our own outlook. Combining the freshness and immediacy of the spoken word with Berlin’s inimitable eloquence and wit, the lectures range over a cast of the greatest thinkers and artists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, including Kant, Rousseau, Diderot, Schiller, Schlegel, Novalis, Goethe, Blake, Byron, and Beethoven. Berlin argues that the ideas and attitudes held by these and other figures helped to shape twentieth-century nationalism, existentialism, democracy, totalitarianism, and our ideas about heroic individuals, individual self-fulfillment, and the exalted place of art.”

You can listen to an excerpt from Berlin’s first lecture of the series here.