S2, Episode 9: An Interview with William Barclay Allen

Posted by Benjamin Hannemann on May 16, 2024

William Barclay Allen


An Interview with William Barclay Allen

America’s founders are revered for creating a structure of governance that values individual rights and promotes human flourishing. Nearly 250 years after they took the first steps toward creating a more perfect union by drafting and adopting the US Constitution, our nation continues to be a beacon of hope and opportunity around the world.

That the framers could so eloquently articulate the principles of ordered liberty that guide us today results in part from their own careful examination of the great thinkers of the 17th and 18th century.  

Our guest on this episode of Voices of Freedom is Dr. William Barclay Allen. A 2024 Bradley Prize winner, he has dedicated his life’s work to studying the founders and the philosophers who influenced the Western tradition. He is also committed to instilling an understanding and appreciation of that tradition in the next generation. 

Allen is the Emeritus Dean of James Madison College and Professor of Political Science at Michigan State University. He is a former member and chairman of the US Commission on Civil Rights and has been a Kellogg National Fellow, Fulbright Fellow, and a member of the National Council on the Humanities.

Topics discussed on this episode: 

  • How Allen’s experience growing up in the segregated south influenced his life’s path
  • The story of his intellectual journey
  • Why Allen translated Montesquieu’s The Spirit of the Laws
  • His decision to focus on America’s founders and the US Constitution
  • Why Allen believes Washington is the most important founder and America’s first progressive
  • Teaching history in a way that reflects the words and experiences of those who lived it
  • Advice to young scholars who are just starting out
  • What it means to Allen to win a Bradley Prize