In Dune and subsequent books we learn that Gurney and Duncan had been freed from Harkonnen slave camps etc and pledged loyalty to House Atreides. Did the Atreides see themselves as freedom fighting liberators of the defenceless, rescuing people from unjust treatment or was it just a personal battle against House Harkonnen? Given that Duncan Idaho was the best man-at-arms in the universe were the Atreides using all means to improve their military status? (Sorry if this is a new/different question, I will remove if so).

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    Why can't it be both? Keep in mind that the Atreides were principled, but they were also an ambitious planetary business with a byzantine political labyrinth to navigate. And freeing your enemy's slaves is still a good deed even when it delivers a kick in the teeth to your enemies. ;) – Vanguard3000 Aug 27 '18 at 17:07
  • Agreed, just wondering as Paul doesn't seem to gave the same appreciation for life as his father and so on. – Seamusthedog Aug 27 '18 at 18:25
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    Later the Atreides lead a jihad which murders tens of billions, or maybe hundreds of billions of people, and sterilize multiple inhabited planets. All in the name of saving humanity of course. Good guys, or amoral fanatics? – James from NZ Aug 27 '18 at 18:35
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    @JamesfromNZ from Muad'dib to the God Emporer the jihad and suppression the 'old Atreides' ethos seems to have been lost, or was their good deeds a by product of the wars with the Harkkonens? – Seamusthedog Aug 27 '18 at 18:46
  • @JamesfromNZ I'd say the jihad wasn't a House Atreides thing, but a God Emperor thing. Wasn't it a major point of conflict in the Dune saga that this jihad wasn't right and must be avoided in the future? – Andres F. Aug 29 '18 at 18:24

In the days of the Corrino Empire, there is some reason to believe that the Atreides did take what we, in our modern day point of views, would consider a more progressive view of human life. This is not to say the scrupled to kill (Thufir Hawat was Master of Assassins) when they thought it necessary, or that Caladan was ruled by anything we'd recognize as democratic means (Arrakis certainly wasn't, even under Duke Leto, but then, during the transition, it was essentially martial law). The Empire, as a whole, accepted as given the idea of a caste system akin to the European middle ages, and the Atreides found it just as odd that the Fremen held themselves aloof from that system as anyone else.

That said, we also have no indication that the Atreides routinely went out to free other houses' slaves, or were seen as abolitionists. In fact, the only sense in which the Atreides are seen as being exceptional at all, within the context of Imperial politics, is that Duke Leto was personally popular, despite not being very wealthy or powerful, and therefore a potential threat to an emperor who had no sons, in a culture of male primogeniture.

Similarly, we see no indication that anyone else in the Imperium finds it odd that the Harkonnen have slave labour, or that Harkonnen government, per se, is all that out of the ordinary. Only that Vladimir Harkonnen himself is unpopular and ruthless in the pursuit of his family's interests. No one condemns him for slavery; they condemn him for being treacherous in his dealings with his peers.

So while it's impossible to say with certainty, textual evidence suggests that the Corrino-era Atreides are just another Imperial family with an agenda, whose leadership we find more sympathetic because they tend to be somewhat less underhanded in their dealings, and don't appear to keep slaves themselves; rather than active champions of liberty.

  • typo: *martial law – OrangeDog Aug 27 '18 at 20:02
  • @Michael Scott Shappe - wow! I haven't got passed God Emporer yet and unsure about the Brian H books but that is one hellava lot of info. Thanks – Seamusthedog Aug 27 '18 at 21:32
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    @OrangeDog obviously you've never been married ! – Seamusthedog Aug 27 '18 at 21:32
  • @Michael Scott Shappe " is that Duke Leto was personally popular, despite not being very wealthy or powerful, and therefore a potential threat to an emperor who had no sons, in a culture of male primogeniture." If the rule of descent is by male prmogeniture then Leto had no possible claim to the throne, since he was not descended from any emperor in the male line. The house of Atreides claimed descent from the house of Atreus in Ancient Greek mythology, not from the House Corrino. And after 10,000 years on the throne, no doubt there are many other branches of House Corrino. – M. A. Golding Aug 28 '18 at 14:06
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    @M.A.Golding Leto is glossed as an actual cousin (presumably through past dynastic marriage) to the Corrino. In addition, having only daughters, the Emperor needed to find a suitable son-by-marriage to succeed him opening the possibility of either Leto himself (who, let's remember, was not married to Jessica, deliberately, to leave open possibilities like this) or Paul. In fact, Paul's ultimate claim to the throne was not conquest, but marriage to Irulan. – Michael Scott Shappe Aug 29 '18 at 16:27

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