All this implies that … the so-called classical liberals, who nowadays call themselves neo-liberals or libertarians, claim Mill’s ideas and contend they follow in his footsteps. The Dutch historian Cor Hermans modifies this image thoroughly in his highly readable book Een Engelsman in Frankrijk …. In it he doesn’t deny that the famous philosopher played an important role in the history of European liberalism, but he demonstrates … that [Mill] was also influenced, and substantially so, by the Romantic Movement, socialism, and positivism.
Dirk Verhofstadt, 17 October, 2008, www.liberales.be
His main source of inspiration Mill found with Coleridge and Carlyle, Saint-Simon, Tocqueville and Comte. In his book Cor Hermans presents us with a detailed study of all these different spheres of influence. He succeeds in unearthing their connections, while writing expressively and well documented, and in showing how they were brought together in Mill’s writings in a harmonious way to form a masterly whole. Also very interesting is how Mr Hermans places these philosophical and sociological views in their historical context… Mr Hermans brings to life a Mill who radically engaged in the improvement of the fortune of both individual and society …
Willy Deckers, De Leeswolf, nr. 8, 2008
Cor Hermans discovered in Mill first of all the passionate rationalist, with an open eye for the moral and institutional shortcomings of democracy. His quest for ‘liberation through reason’ still is, and very much so, a topical subject … It will take you some long evenings to make yourself familiar with the Mill that Mr Hermans outlined. But it will be a rewarding experience. A refreshing view on Mill and an interestingly written history of ideas of the nineteenth century, including the striking notion that a merciless striving for personal gain is not everything, as we know by now, having suffered the banking crisis of overextended loans.
Willem Breedveld, Trouw, 31 October, 2008
Mr Hermans not only demonstrates that utilitarianism is much more interesting and wide ranging than is commonly assumed, he also shows that it is not justified to criticise Mill for being an ‘unsystematic’ thinker. (…) The Mill that Mr Hermans presents in his erudite and excellently written book made great demands on himself, such as ordinary mortals could never satisfy; however, he also was a very prolific and stimulating philosopher, who but little resembled the wooden Victorian schoolmaster looking down on us in photographs and paintings.
Rob Hartmans, De Groene Amsterdammer, 13 June, 2008
It’s his merit that he has placed Darwin himself clearly in the foreground as originator of the debate on social evolution in the second half of the nineteenth century. Against this there is the drawback that Mr Hermans has not resisted the temptation to walk every side-road he encountered in his long trail of study. He needs quite a lot of space to both distinguish and connect all the diverse currents. (…) In spite of these critical remarks, in my final verdict appreciation for this clever piece of work of Mr Hermans takes precedence.
Jan Breman, Amsterdams Sociologisch Tijdschrift, 31 (2), 2004
… an excellent academic dissertation …
Guido Kindt, Het Medisch Weekblad, 12 February, 2004
As soon as Mr Hermans comes to the real subject of his book, the wanderings of Social Darwinism, he shows both erudition and a fluent style …
Bart Leeuwenburgh, Gewina, no. 1, 2004.
Mr Hermans sets out … to discover the essence of Social Darwinism. This results in an a-historic approach …. [Still] the investigation of Mr Hermans certainly is worth reading. For those who will not worry too much about the formulation of the historical problem to solve, this book offers a fine survey, nicely written, of the many variants of Social Darwinism. It’s a valiant undertaking to add a fresh contribution to the so-called ‘Darwin industry’, even venturing to come up with something novel to it.
Barbara Allart, Tijdschrift voor geschiedenis, December 2004
The historian Cor Hermans wrote a bulky, but highly readable and interesting thesis on Social Darwinism, in which he paid most attention to what connected the social Darwinists. This was, most of all, the high value they set on the concepts of selection and, joined to it, elimination: the disposal of the socially weak.
Nederlands Dagblad, 13 February, 2004
This book is ‘likely to effect an immense mental revolution’, the London publisher John Chapman prophesied in 1859 after Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species had appeared. Was he right? Yes, Cor Hermans states in his interesting thesis … Mr Hermans demonstrates in detail how thinkers like Galton (the father of eugenics), Spencer, Wallace, Haeckel and Schäffle – each in their own way – tried to shape this aspiration [to redefine sociology, social politics, and social philosophy in a Darwinist way], what emphasis they chose, and how they fitted it in with the national and socio-political context they were engaged in. But Mr Hermans does more. He shows that the efforts of the social Darwinists were not necessarily ‘faulty’, or, as has been suggested in historiography, only a vulgarisation or misleading popularisation of Darwin’s theory. Darwin himself wished for his universal theory to penetrate the humanities.
Amanda Kluveld, Historisch Nieuwsblad, March 2004