In This Review

Edmund Burke and International Relations
Edmund Burke and International Relations
By Jennifer M. Welsh
St. Martin's Press, 1995, 247 pp

This is a thoughtful and illuminating analysis of the eighteenth century's foremost conservative thinker on international politics. Burke held a complex (some would argue contradictory) view of how the international system ought to work: on the one hand, he prized order, stability, and moderation in interstate relations, as reflected in his opposition to the British government's attempts to crush the American revolution, while on the other, he showed a crusader's zeal in urging the use of force against the French Revolution. While critical of Burke in many respects, the author sees a larger consistency in his thought that is relevant to contemporary foreign affairs. Never simply a realist, Burke believed there was a moral and cultural underpinning to the European state system, and that concepts like legitimacy and sovereignty had to have a substantive as well as a procedural meaning.