Although the roots of conservatism are firmly planted in classical political thought, the terms conservative and conservatism were not used in a political context until well into the 19th century. Credit for the emergence of conservatism as a sufficiently distinctive and coherent political philosophy, one that could assume a place alongside liberalism and socialism, is generally accorded to Edmund Burke. In his principal work, Reflections on the Revolution in France, Burke sought to repudiate as forcefully as possible the strands of Enlightenment thought that fueled the French Revolution. Although the character of his undertaking did not require the development of a systematic political theory, he was obliged nevertheless to articulate the principles and assumptions that prompted this repudiation. From this work—and to a lesser extent ...

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