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Lecture | Studium Generale

Liberalism's Dirty Secret: Property, Slavery and Freedom

Monday 10 April 2017
Open to all. Free entry. No prior registration required.
Slavery: History and Political Philosophy
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden

Liberalism is conventionally taken to be an ideology of freedom. This lecture will survey some key texts in the history of modern liberalism, arguing that liberalism's origins are more ambiguous than this conventional picture suggests. Some key liberal thinkers such as John Locke and Hugo Grotius, influenced by classical writers who took slavery for granted, were ready and willing to justify slavery. These writers also influenced American revolutionary thought (not least in the writing of the US Constitution), where an understanding of liberty as property-ownership led to a defence of slavery as promoting liberty.

Glen Newey is Professor of Political Philosophy and Ethics at the Institute for Philosophy, Leiden University.

This is the second of seven lectures in our series
Slavery: History and Political Philosophy

This series was organised in co-operation with the Leiden Slavery Studies Association.

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