Liberalism at Large

Liberalism at Large:The World According to the Economist

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Path-breaking history of modern liberalism told through the pages of one of its most zealous supporters

In this landmark book, Alexander Zevin looks at the development of modern liberalism by examining the long history of the Economist newspaper, which, since 1843, has been the most tireless – and internationally influential – champion of the liberal cause anywhere in the world.

But what exactly is liberalism, and how has its message evolved?

Liberalism at Large examines a political ideology on the move as it confronts the challenges that classical doctrine left unresolved: the rise of democracy, the expansion of empire, the ascendancy of high finance. Contact with such momentous forces was never going to leave the proponents of liberal values unchanged. Zevin holds a mirror to the politics – and personalities – of Economist editors past and present, from Victorian banker-essayists James Wilson and Walter Bagehot to latter-day eminences Bill Emmott and Zanny Minton Beddoes.

Today, neither economic crisis at home nor permanent warfare abroad has dimmed the Economist’s belief in unfettered markets, limited government, and a free hand for the West. Confidante to the powerful, emissary for the financial sector, portal onto international affairs, the bestselling newsweekly shapes the world its readers – as well as everyone else – inhabit. This is the first critical biography of one of the architects of a liberal world order now under increasing strain.


  • A highly-readable history of one of the world’s most influential publications – and an important contribution to the history of political thought

    Gideon Rachman, Chief Foreign Affairs CommentatorFinancial Times
  • The Economist has vigorously claimed to be advancing the liberal cause since its founding. Zevin takes it at its word, telling the story not only of the magazine itself but also of its impact on world affairs. Having evidently mastered the magazine's archives, he commands a deep knowledge of its inner workings. The Economist emerges as a force that – thanks to the military, cultural and economic power of Britain and, later, America – can truly be said to have made the modern world, if not in the way that many liberals would suppose

    Pankaj MishraNew Yorker
  • Sharp, engaging and deeply researched, Liberalism at Large reveals the profound contradictions at the heart of one of the
    most influential strands of liberalism – its supposed aversion to state power and consistent embrace of imperial might

    Jennifer Pitts, Professor of Political Science, University of Chicago