The Sense of Reality Studies in Ideas and Their History

Sir Isaiah Berlin; Edited by Henry Hardy; Introduction by Patrick Gardiner

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

304 Pages



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A New York Times Notable Book of the Year

Isaiah Berlin's The Sense of Reality contains an important body of previously unknown work by one of our century's leading historians of ideas, and one of the finest essayists writing in English. Eight of the nine pieces included here are published for the first time, and their range is characteristically wide: the subjects explored include realism in history; judgement in politics; the history of socialism; the nature and impact of Marxism; the radical cultural revolution instigated by the Romantics; Russian notions of artistic commitment; and the origins and practice of nationalism. The title essay, starting from the impossibility of historians being able to recreate a bygone epoch, is a superb centerpiece.


Praise for The Sense of Reality

"For anyone wanting to understand the history of ideas, this book will be indispensable."—John Gray, The New York Times Book Review

"[A] contemporary master . . . profoundly moving and human . . . [This is] the true Berlinian voicevehement and humane."—Bryan Appleyard, The Sunday Times

"He may be erudite, but he is not academic. He addresses his essays to the general reader, and he speaks with such infectious energy that he sweeps us up and carries up with him into territory that had seemed inaccessible. He becomes everyman's guide to everything exciting in the history of ideas."—Robert Darnton, The New York Review of Books

"If it were possible to add to a reputation already so considerable, these essays would do it . . . [They are the works of] urbanity, insight, profound scholarship and writerly elegance."—A.C. Grayling, Financial Times

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Sir Isaiah Berlin; Edited by Henry Hardy; Introduction by Patrick Gardiner

  • Sir Isaiah Berlin was born in Riga, Latvia, in 1909 and immigrated to England in 1921. Berlin's achievement as a historian and exponent of ideas earned him the Erasmus, Lippincott, and Agnelli Prizes. He also received the Jerusalem Prize for his lifelong defense of civil liberties. A Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, he was the author of ten other books. Sir Isaiah died in Oxford in November 1997.

  • Isaiah Berlin Copyright Jerry Bauer