> Skip to content
About the book
  • Published: 15 July 2013
  • ISBN: 9781845952082
  • Imprint: Pimlico
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 384
  • RRP: $45.00

The Crooked Timber Of Humanity


Formats & editions


A new, fully revised edition of Isaiah Berlin's magnificent history of ideas. Features a new foreword by John Banville.

'Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.' Immanuel Kant
Isaiah Berlin was one of the most important philosophers of the twentieth century - an activist of the intellect who marshalled vast erudition and eloquence in defence of the endangered values of individual liberty and moral and political plurality. In The Crooked Timber of Humanity he exposes the links between the ideas of the past and the social and political cataclysms of our own time: between the Platonic belief in absolute truth and the lure of authoritarianism; between the eighteenth-century reactionary ideologue Joseph de Maistre and twentieth-century Fascism; between the romanticism of Schiller and Byron and the militant - and sometimes genocidal - nationalism that convulses the modern world.

This new edition features a revised text, a new foreword in which award-winning novelist John Banville discusses Berlin's life and ideas, particularly his defence of pluralism, and a substantial new appendix that provides rich context, including letters and previously uncollected writings by Berlin, notably his virtuoso review of Bertrand Russell's A History of Western Philosophy.

  • Pub date: 15 July 2013
  • ISBN: 9781845952082
  • Imprint: Pimlico
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 384
  • RRP: $45.00

About the Author

Isaiah Berlin

Isaiah Berlin was born in Riga, now capital of Latvia, in 1909. When he was six, his family moved to Russia, and in Petrograd in 1917 Berlin witnessed both Revolutions - Social Democratic and Bolshevik. In 1921 he and his parents emigrated to England, where he was educated at St Paul's School, London, and Corpus Christi College, Oxford. Apart from his war service in New York, Washington, Moscow and Leningrad, he remained at Oxford thereafter - as a Fellow of All Souls, then of New College, as Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory, and as founding President of Wolfson College. He also held the Presidency of the British Academy.

His published work includes Karl Marx, Russian Thinkers, Concepts and Categories, Against the Current, Personal Impressions, The Sense of Reality, The Proper Study of Mankind, The Roots of Romanticism, The Power of Ideas, Three Critics of the Enlightenment, Freedom and Its Betrayal, Liberty, The Soviet Mind and Political Ideas in the Romantic Age. As an exponent of the history of ideas he was awarded the Erasmus, Lippincott and Agnelli Prizes; he also received the Jerusalem Prize for his lifelong defence of civil liberties. He died in 1997.

Also by Isaiah Berlin

See all

Praise for The Crooked Timber Of Humanity

“Berlin restored the history of ideas to its true place as a key to unlock the past and explain the present. It was a notable achievement. This book sustains it.”

Raymond Carr, Spectator

“To read Isaiah Berlin is above all to listen to a voice, effervescent, quizzical, often self-mocking, but always full of gaiety and amusement.”

John Dunn, Times Literary Supplement

“To read Berlin is to sit at an unlit window and see the landscape of European thought illuminated by a spectacular display of fireworks.”

Ian McIntyre, Independent

“A history of ideas that possesses all the drama of a novel, all the immediacy of headline news.”

Michiko Kakutani, New York Times


Related titles