This pioneering study of Burke's engagement with Irish politics and culture argues that Burke's influential early writings on aesthetics are intimately connected to his lifelong political concerns. The concept of the sublime, which lay at the heart of his aesthetics, addressed itself primarily to the experience of terror, and it is this spectre that haunts Burke's political imagination throughout his career. Luke Gibbons argues that this found expression in his preoccupation with political terror, whether in colonial Ireland and India, or revolutionary America and France. Burke's preoccupation with violence, sympathy and pain allowed him to explore the dark side of the Enlightenment, but from a position no less committed to the plight of the oppressed, and to political emancipation. This major reassessment of a key political and cultural figure will appeal to Irish studies and Post-Colonial specialists, political theorists and Romanticists.