Article

The Life and Legacy of “Civil Disobedience”

Linck Johnson

in The Oxford Handbook of Transcendentalism

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780195331035
Published online September 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195331035.013.0046

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 The Life and Legacy of “Civil Disobedience”

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“Civil Disobedience”, an essay by Henry Thoreau that was first published as “Resistance to Civil Government” in 1849, was one of only two written works on the topic of civil disobedience by an American before 1900. Thoreau had been strongly influenced by the antislavery activists and it was them who developed and widely applied the concept of civil disobedience during the decades leading up to the Civil War. The article clarifies that although the prominence of Thoreau's essay had led many to assume that he was the father of civil disobedience, that form of dissent was deeply rooted in Protestant tradition and the ethos of Transcendentalism. The article also sheds light on the involvement of Mohandas Gandhi, who supported “Civil Disobedience.” His frequent references to the essay gave rise to the widespread belief that it inspired the nonviolent political movements Gandhi led in South Africa and later in India.

Keywords: Civil Disobedience; Mohandas Gandhi; nonviolence; antislavery

Article.  6326 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (19th Century) ; Literary Studies (Fiction, Novelists, and Prose Writers)

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