Abstract and Keywords
Liberalism in the sense of a political party did not fully exist until the years between 1847 and 1868, when the Whigs transitioned into Liberals. By the late 1850s, the Liberal Party had become a ruling force in British politics. Yet, in 1886 when the Liberals split over Irish home rule, the demise of liberalism as a coherent platform was already clear. One result of this short-lived history is a striking difference in terminology on different sides of the Atlantic. Liberal political philosophy, however, encompasses diverse referents including classical republican, Scottish Enlightenment, and German-Romantic influences. Scholars who tender specific arguments about liberalism should specify the dimensions of thinking or practice to which they refer. While ‘liberal’ discourse is, thus, contextual and multivalent, the specifically literary reference points of the term are hardly reducible to political platforms, economic doctrines, philosophical stances, or ideological agendas.
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