Intergenerational Imagination in Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France

  • Katey Castellano
Part of the Palgrave Studies in the Enlightenment, Romanticism and Cultures of Print book series (PERCP)


Although many scholars have discussed Edmund Burke’s counterrevolutionary argument in favor of the aristocracy and church in his Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), the way in which his conservative, organic view is further associated with a concern for the health of the environment remains largely unexplored. Yet the preservation of land through inheritance is a cornerstone of the Burkean political position. For instance, he writes, “the idea of inheritance furnishes a sure principle of conservation, and a sure principle of transmission; without at all excluding a principle of improvement” (R 119-20). Admittedly Burke intends to reinforce social hierarchies; however, he also articulates a tension in the debates about land use during the Romantic period — that is, the virtues of inheritance, which is a conservative valuation of land as an estate, versus that of improvement, which is a liberal, free-market approach that views land as a commodity, or as real estate. In the eighteenth century, Raymond Williams argues, “An estate passed from being regarded as an inheritance, carrying such and such income, to being calculated as an opportunity for investment, carrying greatly increased returns.”1 The principle of improvement sought progressively to make the land more profitable, and thus precipitated the enclosure and privatization of the commons in England.


Future Generation French Revolution Social Ecology Past Generation Impartial Spectator 
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  1. 29.
    Catherine Malabou, “Addiction and Grace: Preface to Félix Ravaisson’s Of Habit”, in Of Habit, by Félix Ravaisson (London: Continuum, 2009), xviii.Google Scholar

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© Katey Castellano 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katey Castellano
    • 1
  1. 1.James Madison UniversityUSA

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