The First Conservative

Steven Hayward

Steven Hayward

Visiting Professor, Institute of Governmental Studies

The First Conservative

The Thought of Edmund Burke


Edmund Burke is often called the “first conservative.” His writings on the French Revolution and other political movements are widely understood to be the earliest articulation of modern conservatism, and have offered intellectual guidance to generations of thinkers on the political right . This seminar will introduce students to Burke’s thought, showing how the great British Whig saw the nature of politics and social life. We will look at his views on natural law, the importance of tradition, the virtue of prudence, and his understanding of religion in shaping culture. We will also examine how Burke’s thought can help us better understand contemporary divisions between the political “right” and “left.” Our goal will be to see if Burke’s ideas still hold up and how they might apply to our own revolutionary times. All readings  from Burke can be found in the course reader.

Dates: Mondays on 10.1, 10.8, 10.15, 10.22

Time: 6:00 – 7:30pm

Seminar Schedule:

10/1: Course readers, section 1.
10/8: Course reader, sections 9, 10, 11. Samuel Huntington, “Conservatism as Ideology“.
10/15: Russel Kirk, “Edmund Burke and the Constitution” and Richard Samuelson, “John Adams vs. Edmund Burke
10/29: Francis Canavan, “Burke’s Religion“;  Garret Sheldon, “Burke’s Catholic Conservatism“. Please note that our original meeting on 10/22 has been postponed one week. 

All Burke readings can be found in the course reader.

Location: 2134 Allston Way

**This seminar is free and open to all UC Berkeley, GTU, and St. Mary’s students.