Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally they support ideas and programmes such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, free markets, civil rights, democratic societies, secular governments, gender equality, and international cooperation.

Liberalism first became a distinct political movement during the Age of Enlightenment, when it became popular among philosophers and economists in the Western world.

The word's early connection with the classical education of a medieval university soon gave way to a proliferation of different denotations and connotations.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, "In the United States, liberalism is associated with the welfare-state policies of the New Deal programme of the Democratic administration of Pres. Roosevelt, whereas in Europe it is more commonly associated with a commitment to limited government and laissez-faire economic policies." The Agreement of the People (1647) was a manifesto for political change, proposed by the Levellers during the English Civil War.

It called for freedom of religion, frequent convening of Parliament and equality under the law.

The 19th century saw liberal governments established in nations across Europe, South America, and North America.

In this period, the dominant ideological opponent of classical liberalism was conservatism, but liberalism later survived major ideological challenges from new opponents, such as fascism and communism.

The right to petition the monarch was granted to everyone and "cruel and unusual punishments" were made illegal under all circumstances.

The development of liberalism continued throughout the 18th century with the burgeoning Enlightenment ideals of the era.

By the middle of the 19th century, liberal was used as a politicised term for parties and movements worldwide.

Over time, the meaning of the word "liberalism" began to diverge in different parts of the world.

He believed that absolute monarchy was a great political evil, and his major work, Discourses Concerning Government, argued that the subjects of the monarch were entitled by right to share in the government through advice and counsel.