© 2018

John Ruskin's Politics and Natural Law

An Intellectual Biography


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xxii
  2. Graham A. MacDonald
    Pages 1-24
  3. Graham A. MacDonald
    Pages 51-88
  4. Graham A. MacDonald
    Pages 121-146
  5. Back Matter
    Pages 259-276

About this book


This book offers new perspectives on the origins and development of John Ruskin’s political thought. Graham A. MacDonald traces the influence of late medieval and pre-Enlightenment thought in Ruskin’s writing, reintroducing readers to Ruskin’s politics as shaped through his engagement with concepts of natural law, legal rights, labour and welfare organization. From Ruskin’s youthful studies of geology and chemistry to his back-to-the-land project, the Guild of St. George, he emerges as a complex political thinker, a reformer—and what we would recognize today as an environmentalist. John Ruskin’s Politics and Natural Law is a nuanced reappraisal of neglected areas of Ruskin’s thought.


John Ruskin John Ruskin's political thought history of political thought pre-Enlightenment natural law late medieval social organization Guild of St. George Labour Party English welfare state Victorian England Carlyle John Stuart Mill Evangelical religious thought Victorian political economy

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Parksville, BCCanada

About the authors

Graham A. MacDonald has worked as a teacher, librarian, park planner, heritage consultant and
historian.  Between 1991 and 2001 he was National Park Historian for Parks Canada, Western Region. He is the author of numerous books and articles. 

Bibliographic information


“In this major new interpretation, Graham MacDonald recovers the centrality of natural law to Ruskin’s understanding of ethics and history. The book presents a dazzlingly erudite survey not just of Ruskin’s intellectual biography, but the whole universe of influences that shaped his work.” (Fredrik Albritton Jonsson, Associate Professor of British History, The University of Chicago, USA)

“In this solidly researched study, MacDonald expertly teases out the implications of Ruskin’s ideas through a close reading of Ruskin’s voluminous writings, framing them within their intellectual and historical context. He astutely concludes that Ruskin’s concerns about natural law, environmental stewardship, and the costs of limitless economic growth resonate in our own times.” (Donald G. Wetherell, Professor Emeritus of Heritage Resources Management, Athabasca University, Canada)

“MacDonald’s focus on the importance of natural law to Ruskin’s work is long overdue, and underlines the complex range of influences on the formation of Ruskin’s political outlook.” (Mark Frost, Senior Lecturer in English Literature, University of Portsmouth, UK)