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Civil Disobedience

by Henry David Thoreau - 1849

While Walden can be applied to almost anyone's life, Henry Thoreau's Civil Disobedience is like a venerated architectural landmark -- it is preserved and admired, and occasionally visited, but for most of us there are not many occasions when it can actually be used. Still, while seldom mentioned without the obligatory reference to Gandhi and King, Civil Disobedience has more history than many suspect. In occupied Denmark in the 1940's it was read by the Danish resistance, in the 1950's it was cherished by people who opposed McCarthyism, in the 1960's it was influential in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, and in the 1970's it was discovered by a new generation of anti-war activists. The lesson learned from all this experience is that Thoreau's ideas really do work, just as he imagined they would.

Thoreau's Civil Disobedience in two parts: Part 1 - Part 2

(Originally published as "Resistance to Civil Government")

Civil Disobedience originated as a Concord Lyceum lecture delivered by Henry on January 26, 1848. It was first published in May of 1849, in Aesthetic Papers, a short-lived periodical that never managed a second issue. The modern title comes from Yankee in Canada, with Anti-Slavery and Reform Papers, an 1866 collection of Thoreau's work.


Introduction ] Thoreau's Walden ] Maine Woods ] Cape Cod ] [ Thoreau's Civil Disobedience ] Life Without Principle ] Slavery in Massachusetts ] A Plea for Captain John Brown ] Thoreau's Walking ] Thoreau's World ] Transcendentalism ]


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This page was last modified 2001/09/17