Online Library of Liberty

A collection of scholarly works about individual liberty and free markets. A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.

Advanced Search

Wilhelm von Humboldt, The Sphere and Duties of Government (The Limits of State Action) (1854 ed.) [1792]

0053_tp
Title Page
0053_toc
Original Table of Contents or First Page

Edition used:

Wilhelm von Humboldt, The Sphere and Duties of Government. Translated from the German of Baron Wilhelm von Humboldt, by Joseph Coulthard, Jun. (London: John Chapman, 1854). http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/589

Available in the following formats:
Facsimile PDF 14.2 MB This is a facsimile or image-based PDF made from scans of the original book.
Facsimile PDF small 6.43 MB This is a compressed facsimile or image-based PDF made from scans of the original book.
Kindle 417 KB This is an E-book formatted for Amazon Kindle devices.
EBook PDF 537 KB This text-based PDF or EBook was created from the HTML version of this book and is part of the Portable Library of Liberty.
HTML 471 KB This version has been converted from the original text. Every effort has been taken to translate the unique features of the printed book into the HTML medium.

About this Title:

A mid-19th century translation of this work. “The grand, leading principle, towards which every argument … unfolded in these pages directly converges, is the absolute and essential importance of human development in its richest diversity.” This description by Wilhelm von Humboldt of his purpose in writing The Limits of State Action animates John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty and serves as its famous epigraph. Seldom has a book spoken so dramatically to another writer. Many commentators even believe that Humboldt’s discussion of issues of freedom and individual responsibility possesses greater clarity and directness than Mill’s. The Limits of State Action, by “Germany’s greatest philosopher of freedom,” as F. A. Hayek called him, has an exuberance and attention to principle that make it a valuable introduction to classical liberal political thought. It is also crucial for an understanding of liberalism as it developed in Europe at the turn of the nineteenth century. Humboldt explores the role that liberty plays in individual development, discusses criteria for permitting the state to limit individual actions, and suggests ways of confining the state to its proper bounds. In so doing, he uniquely combines the ancient concern for human excellence and the modern concern for what has come to be known as negative liberty.

Copyright information:

The text is in the public domain.

Fair use statement:

This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.

Table of Contents: