Few thinkers of the period between the twentieth century’s world wars had as realistic a grasp of the dangerous political climate as Francis Hirst. Fewer still sounded the alarm as urgently. Astonished by the blindness to the perils developing in Germany and Italy and even more so by his peers’ admiration of the Soviet Union, where mass murder was openly carried out, Hirst published, in 1935, Liberty and Tyranny. He explains:
After the Great War we awoke with a shock to see liberty and democracy everywhere threatened, affronted, challenged, assaulted. Since then we have seen great nations – under the influence, no doubt, of defeat or depression or despair – deliberately vote away their freedom, and consign themselves to the tender mercies of a dictatorship based upon force and maintained by terror.
This classic, grounded in knowledge of history and economics remains a compelling statement. Its review of the growth of political liberty in England is followed by an analysis of tyranny, “a weed that may grow in any age.”