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The Great Books of Liberty

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Introduction

Date: 19 Nov. 2018

The founder of Liberty Fund, Pierre F. Goodrich, had a long standing interest in the Great Books program which goes back to the creation of the Great Books Foundation in 1947 by Dr. Robert M. Hutchins, the chancellor of the University of Chicago. Goodrich was a member of the Foundation's National Board between 1947 and 1955 and was Chairman of the Indiana State Committee of the Foundation.[1] However, Goodrich had a falling out with the National Board over the kind of texts which should be included on their list of "Great Books". Given his interest in political, economic, and individual liberty, Goodrich had a more political focus than his colleagues, so in 1957 he began to plan a way to implement his own version of the Great Books, which would become in effect "The Great Books of Liberty" and which would become a core component of the OLL online collection of texts.

His vision took the form of a seminar room which he paid to be built in the Lilly Library at Wabash College, Indiana. The names of the authors on his list of great books (along with some names of texts) would be engraved on the wall of a large seminar room which had an oval table in the centre and book cases around the perimeter of the room. The list of names and titles ended with the American Declaration of Independence of 1776. The two images below will give some idea of what it looks like.

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Goodrich's intent in designing the room in this way is well described by Hans Eicholz:[2]

The room provides the students of Wabash College with a practical tool for understanding and interpreting the historical evolution of the idea of individual liberty. Etched into limestone slabs set in its walls are important names and developments of significance in the history of freedom that stretch back in time from the Declaration of Independence to the epic story of Gilgamesh and the Sumerian reforms of Urukagina of Lagash in the third millennium B.C. The room itself is of grand proportions, as it must be to accommodate the great span of time over which the idea of liberty developed: thirty-eight feet from north to south and fifty feet from east to west. The ceiling is eighteen feet high with inset lights that illuminate the discussion table below and the stone inscriptions on the walls.

Beneath the limestone inlays Mr. Goodrich placed the primary works and histories of each entry plus other writings that have contributed significantly to our understanding of liberty. The collection of books thus extends the story of humankind's struggle against tyranny well beyond the Declaration of Independence and into the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

In the middle of this vast collection of materials is a large oval table that can be broken down into smaller stations to accommodate conversation groups of various sizes. When one considers the room as a whole, the intent of its designer becomes evident: the idea of liberty, which was developed and transmitted from generation to generation, is seen as a long historical conversation of which the students themselves are a part.

The lighting of the room first calls the student's attention to the walls, where he or she views in brief the long chain of names and dates. Then, wherever his interest may draw him, the student is encouraged to explore further by consulting the appropriate books below the etchings. And should other students be present, the table and chairs invite them to converse about the subjects at hand.

As noted by Mr. Goodrich in the introductory letter following this foreword, the whole chamber forms a link between the present and the past in the exploration of liberty. In the hands of an able teacher, the potential of the room is tremendous. Those who use the Goodrich Seminar Room as its founder intended immediately sense that they are indeed part of a long conversation that includes not only those who sit around the table but also all those whose works are on the shelves and whose names are etched into the surrounding walls.

We have tried to show the relationship between the names on the four walls of the Goodrich Seminar Room here.

In addition to the names on the walls of the Goodrich Seminar Room, Goodrich drew up other lists of great books and authors from time to time. In the list of texts provided below we use the following abbreviations to indicate which list the author or title came from:

  • "GSR" for those names and titles which appear on the walls of the Goodrich Seminary Room at Wabash College (there are about 100)
  • "Other" for those names which appeared on other lists Goodrich drew up from time to time
  • "ADD." for those "additional" names we have added from books published by Liberty Fund or on whom Liberty Fund has organized academic conferences.

What makes Goodrich's list of the "Great Books" a bit unusual is that he begins with ancient India, China, and Sumeria, which shows that he was interested in more than just the "western tradition"; he has a larger number of medieval authors than one might have expected; he stops (at least in the Goodrich Seminar Room) with the American Declaration of Independence of 1776 and not, again as one might have expected, with the American Constitution; that there is a relative paucity of texts from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Please note, that our lists of texts for the 19th and 20th centuries are more political and economic in their focus than the previous historical periods.

Key:

  • wthin each category the authors are listed in alphabetical order
  • the link from the author's name takes you to the main author page of the OLL collection
  • the link from the title takes you to a copy of the text in the OLL collection. If we do not have a copy there is not a link provided.
  • the link from "GSR" takes you a brief description of the author which was written for the book edited by Hans Eicholz, The Goodrich Seminar Room at Wabash College. An Explanation (2000).
  • where we have guides or discussions about a particular author or topic we include a link in the right hand column of the table. "LM" = the online discussion forum called "Liberty Matters" where many of these texts have been discussed.

Endnotes

[1] Goodrich's association with the University of Chicago Great Books program is described in Dane Starbuck, The Goodriches: An American Family (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2001), Section IV: Pierre F. Goodrich. Crusader and Philosopher </titles/1065#lf1429_label_811>. Details of the titles of the books selected by Mortimer Adler et al. can be found at Gateway to the Great Books and
Great Books of the Western World.

[2] Hans L. Eicholz, "Foreword," The Goodrich Seminar Room at Wabash College. An Explanation. With a Foreword by Hans L. Eicholz and an Introduction by Pierre F, Goodrich. (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2000), pp. ix-x.

 


 

The Great Books of Liberty

List of Historical Periods

  1. Ancient Asia
  2. Ancient Greece
  3. Ancient Rome
  4. The Medieval Period
  5. Renaissance and Reformation
  6. Early Modern Period
  7. 18th Century
  8. 19th Century
  9. 20th Century and Beyond

 

Ancient Asia [other authors from this period]

China

 

 
Author Source Other Guides

Confucius (551 BC-479 BC)

GSR

 

Lao Tzu (c. 570 BC)

GSR

Mencius (371-289 BC)

GSR

Mo Tzu (c. 470-391 BC)

GSR

Shih Ching (520 BC)

GSR

 

 

India

 

 
Author Source Other Guides

Bhagavadgita (c. 200 BC)

GSR

Buddha (6thC BC)

GSR

Mahabharata (1400-1000 BC)

GSR

Rigveda

GSR

Upanishads (c. 1000-650 BC)

GSR

 

 

Sumeria and Middle East

 

 
Author Source Other Guides

Ur-Nammu (ca. 2050 B.C.)

  • Code

GSR

Gilgamesh

GSR

Hammurabi's Code (1792 BC-1750 BC)

GSR

Old Testament

GSR
Moses

Amos
Hosea
Isaiah

Jeremia

Job

Micah

Psalms

Urukagina (c. 2350 BC)

  • Code

GSR

Zarathushtra (628 BC-522 BC)

GSR

 

 

Ancient Greece [other authors from this period]

Author Source Other Guides

Aeschylus (525 BC-456 BC)

GSR

 

Archimedes (c. 284-211 BC)

GSR

Aristophanes (446-386 BCE)

ADD.  

Aristotle (384 BC-322 BC)

GSR

Euclid (c. 365-300 BC)

GSR

Herodotus (484-425 BCE)

ADD.  

Hesiod (c. 700 BC-c. 700 BC)

GSR

Hippocrates (c. 460-377 BC)

GSR

Homer (9thC BC-9thC BC)

GSR

Plato (427c BC-347 BC)

GSR

Socrates (470 BC-399 BC)

GSR

Sophocles (496 BC-406 BC)

GSR

Thales (624-546 B.C.)

  • History of Greek Mathematics

GSR

Thucydides (460c BC-400 BC)

GSR

 

Ancient Rome [other authors from this period]

Author Source Other Guides

Ambrose (339-397)

GSR

 

Augustine, Saint (354-430)

GSR

Aurelius, Marcus (121-180)

ADD.  

Cicero, Marcus Tullius (106BC-43BC)

GSR

Epictetus (55-135)

GSR

Gaius (130-180)

GSR

Galen (129-199)

GSR

Origen (185-254)

GSR

New Testament

GSR
Jesus Christ
Matthew

Mark

Luke

John

Paul

Plotinus (205-270)

GSR

Plutarch (46c.-125)

GSR

Tacitus, Publius Cornelius (56-120)

GSR

Virgil (70 BC-19 BC)

GSR

 

The Medieval Period [other authors from this period]

Author Source Other Guides

Anselm, Saint (1033-1109)

GSR

     

Aquinas, St. Thomas (1225-1274)

GSR

Averroes (Ibn Rushd) (1126-1198)

GSR

Avicenna (980-1037)

  • Writings on Philosophy
  • Writings on Medicine

GSR

Bede, Saint (672-735)

GSR

Benedict, Saint (480-547)

GSR

Beowulf (8thC-)

GSR

Boethius (470-524)

GSR

Chaucer, Geoffrey (c. 1340-1400)

GSR

Dante Alighieri (1265-1321)

GSR

Francis, Saint (1181-1226)

GSR

Al Ghazali (1058-1111)

GSR

Groot, Gerhard (1340-1384)

  • Writings

GSR

Heimskringla (1220)

GSR

Kalidasa (5thC-5thC)

GSR

Thomas á Kempis (1380-1471)

  • The Imitation of Christ
Other  

Magna Carta (1215)

GSR

Maimonides, Moses (1135-1204)

GSR

Mohammed (570-632)

GSR

Petrarca, Francesco (1304-1374)

GSR

Rhazes (ca. 865-923/32)

GSR

Roman (Gregorian) chant

GSR

Saga of Burnt Njal (c. 13thC)

GSR

Wyclife, John (1330-1384)

GSR

Gerard Zerbolt (1367-1398)

  • The Imitation of Christ
Other  

 

The Renaissance and Reformation [other authors from this period]

Author Source Other Guides

Boetie, Etienne de la (1530-1563)

ADD.  

Calvin, John (1509-1564)

GSR

 

Copernicus, Nicolaus (1473-1543)

  • On the revolution of celestial spheres (1543)

GSR

Erasmus, Desiderius (1469-1536)

GSR

Huss, Jan (1372-1417)

GSR

Luther, Martin (1483-1546)

GSR

Machiavelli, Niccolo (1469-1527)

Other  

Melanchthon, Philipp (1497-1560)

  • The Loci Cummunes (1521)

GSR

Montaigne, Michel de (1533-1592)

ADD.  

More, Thomas (1478-1535)

ADD.  

Reformation Chorale

GSR

Savonarola, Girolamo (1452-1498)

GSR

Zwingli, Huldrych (1484-1531)

GSR

 

Early Modern Period [other authors from this period]

Author Source Other Guides

Bacon, Francis (1561-1626)

ADD.  

Bayle, Pierre (1647-1706)

ADD.  

Coke, Sir Edward (1552-1634)

GSR

 

Descartes, Réné (1696-1650)

ADD.  

Galilei, Galileo (1564-1642)

GSR

 

Harrington, James (1611-1677)

Other

Hobbes, Thomas (1588-1679)

Other  

Hooker, Richard (1553-1699)

Other  

Grotius, Hugo (1583-1645)

GSR

Lilburne, John (1615-1657)

ADD.  

Locke, John (1632-1704)

GSR

Milton, John (1608-1674)

GSR

Newton, Sir Isaac (1642-1727)

  • Principia (1687)

GSR

Overton, Richard (1631-1664)

  • An Arrow against all Tyrants (1646)
ADD.  

Pascal, Blaise (1623-1662)

ADD.  

Pufendorf, Samuel von (1632-1694)

ADD.

Robinson, John (1575-1625)

GSR

 

Shakespeare, William (1564-1616)

GSR

Sidney, Algernon (1622-1683)

   

Spinoza, Benedict de (1632-1677)

ADD.  

 

18th Century [other authors from this period]

Author Source Other Guides

Beccaria, Cesare (1738-1794)

ADD.  

Blackstone, William (1723-1780)

GSR

Burke, Edmund (1729-1797)

GSR

Condorcet (1743-1794)

ADD.  

Diderot, Denis (1713-1784)

ADD.

Ferguson, Adam (1723-1816)

ADD.  

Gibbon, Edward (1737-1794)

ADD.  

Godwin, William (1756-1836)

ADD.  

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von (1749-1832)

GSR

Hume, David (1711-1776)

GSR

Kant, Immanuel (1724-1804)

GSR

Madison, James (1751-1836)

Other  

Montesquieu (1689-1755)

Other

Paine, Thomas (1737-1809)

ADD.  

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques (1712-1778)

ADD.  

Shaftesbury, Earl of (1671-1713)

ADD.  

Smith, Adam (1723-1790)

GSR

Turgot (1727-1781)

ADD.  

Voltaire (1694-1778)

Other  

Wollstonecraft, Mary (1741-1820)

ADD.  
Political Documents    

Jefferson, Thomas (1743-1826)

GSR

Hamilton, Alexander (1757-1804), James Madison (1751-1836), and John Jay (1745-1829)

Other  

The Anti-Federalists

ADD.  

United States Constitution (1787) and Amendments (1791)

Other

 

Nineteenth Century [other authors from this period]

Author Source Other Guides

Acton, Lord (1834-1902)

Other  

Bastiat, Frédéric (1801-1850)

ADD.

Bentham, Jeremy (1748-1832)

Other  

Böhm-Bawerk, Eugen von (1851-1914)

Other

Burckhardt, Jacob (1818-1897)

  • Force and Freedom (1847)
Other  

Clausewitz, Carl von (1789-1831)

Other  

Constant, Benjamin (1767-1830)

ADD.

Darwin, Charles (1809-1882)

ADD.  

Dicey, Albert Venn (1835-1922)

ADD.  

Emerson, Ralph Waldo (1803-1882)

ADD.  

Humboldt, Wilhelm von (1767-1835)

ADD.  

Malthus, Thomas (1766-1823)

ADD.  

Marx, Karl (1818-1883)

ADD.

Mill, James (1773-1836)

ADD.

Mill, John Stuart (1806-1873)

Other

Say, Jean-Baptiste (1767-1832)

ADD.  

Shelley, Percy Bysshe (1792-1822)

ADD.  

Spencer, Herbert (1820-1903)

ADD.

Spooner, Lysander (1808-1887)

ADD.

Sumner, William Graham (1840-1910)

ADD.

Tocqueville, Alexis de (1805-1859)

ADD.

Webster, Daniel (1782-1852)

Other  

 

Twentieth Century [other authors from this period]

Author Source Other Guides

Buchanan, James M. (1919-2013)

 

Hayek, Friedrich A. (1899-1992)

Other

Mises, Ludwig von (1881-1973)

Other

Read, Leonard E. (1898-1983)

Other  

Röpke, Wilhelm von (1899-1966)

  • A Humane Economy (1960)
Other  

 

Last modified November 19, 2018