Liberalism has undergone fits and bursts of change resulting both in convergences and separations of its key tenets. This is a consequence of liberal ideas having originated at different times, from diverse sources, and with varying aims in mind. ‘Layers of liberalism’ shows it is more helpful to approach liberalism as an ideology with complex, interacting layers in a constant state of mutual rearrangement. The so-called liberal tradition is a mixture of at least five different historical layers linked, if at all, in ill-fitting and patchy continuities. These layers often pull in irreconcilable directions. Some do indeed succeed others, but others exist in parallel, and others still disappear and then re-emerge.