Conceived in Liberty

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There's never been a better time to remember the revolutionary and even libertarian roots of the American founding, and there's no better guide to what this means in the narrative of the Colonial period than Murray Rothbard.

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In a detailed narrative well supported by period documents as well as historical interpretation, author Murray N. Rothbard describes the European settlement of the North American continent from its beginning in 1564 to the post-revolutionary confederation of states in 1784.  In Volume 4 (pg.237) he writes:

“The polar opposites in political regimes were slavery on the one hand, and self-government on the other, and self-government or self-direction was the key to liberty, not government by law, since laws can be and are made by one person or set of persons to bind others.”

The conflict between these “polar opposites” is the timeless theme of this work.

This is history written at its finest. Murray Rothbard is a powerful writer, yet his text is as easy to read as any skillfully written fiction. Indeed, some of the events he describes seem as strange as fiction. You will come away from this work with a sense that Rothbard wrote with glee, that he might have been laughing when he slapped down yet another historical myth; certainly he will never fail to entertain you.

On the subject matter itself, though, we are sad to see that what was so nearly won has been so completely lost.  But through educational books like this, more and more people are awakening to – and demanding – that great vision of liberty once again.

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This is the new single-volume edition of Conceived in Liberty! After so many years of having to juggle four volumes, the Mises Institute has finally put it altogether in a single, 1,616-page book. This makes it easier to read, and makes clearer just what a contribution this book is to historical literature.

There’s never been a better time to remember the revolutionary and even libertarian roots of the American founding, and there’s no better guide to what this means in the narrative of the Colonial period than Murray Rothbard.

For anyone who thinks of Murray Rothbard as only an economic theorist or political thinker, this giant book is something of a surprise. It is probably his least known treatise. It offers a complete history of the Colonial period of American history, a period lost to students today, who are led to believe American history begins with the US Constitution.

Rothbard’s ambition was to shed new light on Colonial history and show that the struggle for human liberty was the heart and soul of this land from its discovery through the culminating event of the American Revolution. These volumes are a tour de force, enough to establish Rothbard as one of the great American historians.

It is a detailed narrative history of the struggle between liberty and power, as we might expect, but it is more. Rothbard offers a third alternative to the conventional interpretive devices. Against those on the right who see the American Revolution as a “conservative” event, and those on the left who want to invoke it as some sort of proto-socialist uprising, Rothbard views this period as a time of accelerating libertarian radicalism. Through this prism, Rothbard illuminates events as never before.

The volumes were brought out in the 1970s, but the odd timing and uneven distribution prevented any kind of large audience. They were beloved only by a few specialists, and sought after by many, thanks to their outstanding reputation. The Mises Institute is pleased to be the publisher of this integrated book.

This single volume covers the discovery of the Americas and the colonies in the 17th century, the period of “salutary neglect” in the first half of the 18th century, the advance to revolution, from 1760-1775 and the political, military, and ideological history of the revolution and after.

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