Episode #07 Seamus Deane on the conservatism of Edmund Burke

Edmund Burke lived from 1729 to 1797, a period of great expansion of the British Empire and of revolutions in America and France. More a working politician than a systematic philosopher, Burke responded to the turmoil of his times by formulating a unique brand of political conservatism that has been interpreted in many ways down the centuries.

Seamus Deane.

Literary critic and novelist Seamus Deane sketches the life and times of Edmund Burke, describing the many versions of Burke that have been formulated across the political spectrum, particularly in the American tradition. Dublin-born Burke was critical of some aspects of British colonialism in India and he sympathised with the American Revolution of 1776, but vociferously opposed the French Revolution of 1789 and was a Whig member of parliament in Westminster.

Deane points out the central tenets of political conservatism that are common to these  positions, while showing how Burke has always been susceptible to adoption by different political traditions in his own time and since. He also traces the development since the 1970s of critical thinking about Burke as an Irish political figure.

While the sound quality of this recording is perfectly listenable, it could be higher – our apologies.

Seamus Deane is emeritus Professor of Irish Studies at the University of Notre Dame. He has published widely on Burke, including Foreign Affections (2005) and, more recently, in the Cambridge Companion to Edmund Burke (2012). He has been a member of Field Day since the early 1980s.