Burke, Pain and Neighbourhood in International Politics

  • Patrick Ewan Thomas

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis recovers and examines what are termed the neighbourhood aspects of Edmund Burke’s and Thomas Paine’s thought. These neighbourhood ideas reveal a conception of politics in both writers that makes no distinction between the different scales of human action. This is a way of thinking about the relations of people and communities that has been overlooked by those studying the history of international political thought, as it does not conform to the prevailing image of ‘international’ thought. It is argued that a dichotomised conception of politics divided into domestic and international realms of action became dominant in the nineteenth century and shaped both the way we think about the world and the values embodied in our present ways of life. By recovering this alternative neighbourhood conception, we are able to consider with a new sense of possibility what we think about the concept and values we have inherited. The thesis adapts Quentin Skinner’s arguments about the method of studying the history of political thought to argue that there is a much broader history of international political thought that can be drawn upon. The thesis examines Burke and Paine’s arguments and involvement in some of the most significant events of the late eighteenth century. It explores how the neighbourhood perspective shaped their ideas and arguments about the relations between Britain and the American Colonies and the establishment of an independent America. It considers Burke arguments in regards to Britain’s involvement in India through the East India Company and how neighbourhood ideas shaped his vision of Empire. Finally it considers Burke’s and Paine’s different reaction to the French Revolution, and their common concern for the growing dominance of the conception of politics that saw people and communities as isolated, autonomous individuals, rather than socially constituted beings.
Date of Award16 Dec 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorWilliam Ward Bain (Supervisor) & Huw Lloyd Williams (Supervisor)

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