Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog


Freedom 'Across the Pond'

By Riley Roberts
As a summer intern at the Freedom Museum, I have had the opportunity to contribute to exhibit content as well as this blog on a regular basis. Unfortunately, my time in our Tribune Tower office was recently cut short due to a study abroad program upon which I've embarked. However, thanks to the dynamic nature of freedoms across the globe and our museum's unique focus, I will continue to be able to make some contributions in the form of this blog. Over the next few weeks, Shawn Healy and I will undertake a brief comparative study of freedom in the United States and the United Kingdom. I will draw on a number of journal articles, textbooks, and news articles to perform analysis of certain freedoms abroad, and Shawn will take part in this dialogue by providing an American perspective. These topics are concurrent with the coursework I will be performing here at the University of Oxford (Christ Church), and in fact will comprise a portion of my graded work.

While the Freedom Museum focuses mainly on American freedoms (particularly the First Amendment), some knowledge of the state of liberty abroad can help to inform our understanding of the freedom that we in the United States enjoy. Great Britain, another longtime bastion of democracy in the West, stands as one of America's closest allies on many issues in the international arena. Many forget, however, that Britain began the process of ending monarchal rule long before the American Revolution established the modern world's most influential democracy. As Gordon Brown, the UK's new Prime Minister, pointed out in a 2004 speech (while serving as Chancellor of the Exchequer), the British were the first people in the world to "reject the arbitrary rule of monarchy," wresting power from King John with the Magna Carta in 1215 (a document I had the pleasure of viewing at the British Library only a few short days ago).

Britain's long history of democratic rule has been shaped by events, structural peculiarities, and specific actors unique to its system, a number of which will be explored in blog entries to come. This storied Western democracy, while outwardly quite similar to the one that persists in the United States, can yet speak volumes about the varied nature of freedom as it is experienced in America and around the world. Many of the questions currently plaguing the American and British democracies are the same; it is the institutional mechanisms, the people concerned, and the way these questions are answered that merit intensive study.

The goal of this experiment in blogging is to elicit a deeper understanding of the possibilities for (and obstacles to) various freedoms in different democratic societies. Through this comparative analysis, we hope to shed light on the state of liberty at home as well as abroad.


Post a Comment

<< Home


Managing Director

McCormick Freedom Project

Shawn is responsible for overseeing and managing the operations associated with the McCormick Freedom Project. Additionally, he serves as the in house content expert and voice of museum through public speaking and original scholarship. Before joining the Freedom Project, he taught American Government, Economics, American History, and Chicago History at Community High School in West Chicago, IL and Sheboygan North High School in Wisconsin.

Shawn is a doctoral candidate within the Political Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his MA in Political Science. He is a 2001 James Madison Fellow from the State of Wisconsin and holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, History, and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]

About Fanning the Flames and the McCormick Freedom Project

Fanning the Flames is a blog of the McCormick Freedom Project, which was started in 2006 by museum managing director Shawn Healy. The blog highlights the news of the day, in hopes of engaging readers in dialogue about freedom issues. Any views or opinions expressed on this blog represent those of the writers alone and do not represent an official opinion of the McCormick Freedom Project.

Founded in 2005, the McCormick Freedom Project is part of the McCormick Foundation. The Freedom Project’s mission is to enable informed and engaged participation in our democracy by demonstrating the relevance of the First Amendment and the role it plays in the ongoing struggle to define and defend freedom. The museum offers programs and resources for teachers, students, and the general public.

First Amendment journalism initiative

The Freedom Project recently launched a new reporting initiative with professional journalists Tim McNulty and Jamie Loo. The goal is to expand and promote the benefits of lifelong civic engagement among citizens of all ages, through original reporting, commentary and news aggregation on First Amendment and freedom issues. Please visit the McCormick Freedom Project's news Web site, The Post-Exchange at