This extended essay by one of the world's leading historians seeks, in its first part, to excavate and to vindicate, the neo-Roman theory of free citizens and free states as it developed in early modern Britain. This analysis leads on to a powerful defence of the nature, purposes and goals of intellectual history and the history of ideas. As Quentin Skinner says, 'the intellectual historian can help us to appreciate how far the values embodied in our present way of life, and our present ways of thinking about those values, reflect a series of choices made at different times between different possible worlds'. This essay provides one of the most substantial statements yet made about the importance, relevance and potential excitement of this form of historical enquiry. Liberty before Liberalism is based on Quentin Skinner's Inaugural Lecture as Regius Professor of Modern History in the University of Cambridge, delivered in 1997.