Book Review

Toward the Light of Liberty: The Struggles for Freedom and Rights that Made the Modern Western World by A. C. Grayling. Walker & Company, NY, 2007; 336 pages, ISBN 0-8027-1636-9, hardback, $26.95. (Paperback edition retitled Toward the Light: The Story of the Struggles for Liberty and Rights that Made the Modern Western World published 2008 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, ISBN 0747592993, $13.25)

The degree of freedom people enjoy in the modern world rests on recognition of and respect for human rights. As the subtitle suggests, this clearly written, gripping, and at times sobering history tells of the many sacrifices made by individuals and groups that have led to contemporary rights and freedoms: freedom of conscience and thought, freedom of religion, the abolition of slavery, civil rights, women’s rights, universal adult suffrage, workers rights, children’s rights, animal rights, etc. Death, torture, oppression, censorship, intolerance, derision – all these were courageously faced by those who worked for these basic freedoms that we all too often take for granted. In recent years complacency in Britain and the United States has allowed those in authority to undermine these hard-won rights and freedoms bit by bit through fear and deception. By setting out how difficult it was for those who achieved these rights to do so, and what a long and continuing process it is, the author hopes to make readers aware of what they stand to lose and demonstrate how, once lost, such rights and freedoms can be very difficult indeed to regain. – Sarah Belle Dougherty (January 2009)