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Vol 23 No 5 May/June 2018

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Law, Liberty and the Constitution: A Brief History of the Common Law

ISBN13: 9781783270118
Published: April 2015
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer Ltd
Country of Publication: UK
Format: Hardback
Price: £25.00

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Throughout English history the rule of law and the preservation of liberty have been inseparable, and both are intrinsic to England's constitution.

This accessible and entertaining history traces the growth of the law from its beginnings in Anglo-Saxon times to the present day. It shows how the law evolved from a means of ensuring order and limiting feuds to become a supremely sophisticated dispenser of justice and the primary guardian of civil liberties.

This development owed much to the English kings and their judiciary, who, in the twelfth century, forged a unified system of law - predating that of any other European country - from almost wholly Anglo-Saxon elements. Yet by the seventeenth century this royal offspring - Oedipus Lex it could be called - was capable of regicide. Since then the law has had a somewhat fractious relationship with that institution upon which the regal mantle of supreme power descended, Parliament.

This book tells the story of the common law not merely by describing major developments but by concentrating on prominent personalities and decisive cases relating to the constitution, criminal jurisprudence, and civil liberties. It investigates the great constitutional conflicts, the rise of advocacy, and curious and important cases relating to slavery, insanity, obscenity, cannibalism, the death penalty, and miscarriages of justice.

The book concludes by examining the extension of the law into the prosecution of war criminals and protection of universal human rights and the threats posed by over-reaction to national emergencies and terrorism. Devoid of jargon and replete with good stories, Law, Liberty and the Constitution represents a new approach to the telling of legal history and will be of interest to anyone wishing to know more about the common law - the spinal cord of the English body politic.

Harry Potter is a former fellow of Selwyn College, Cambridge and a practising barrister specialising in criminal defence. He has authored books on the death penalty and Scottish history and wrote and presented an award-winning series on the history of the common law for the BBC.

Legal History, General Interest
1. Introduction
2. The Promulgation of the Law in Anglo-Saxon England
3. The Enforcement of the Law in Anglo-Saxon England
4. A Norman Yoke?
5. Henry II and the Creation of the Common Law
6. Becket and Criminous Clergy
7. The Achievement of Henry II
8. Magna Carta
9. From Ordeal to Jury
10. Legal Eagles
11. The King's Conscience, the Lord Chancellor's Foot
12. Star Chamber: Keeping England in Quiet
13. Torture
14. The Writ and Charter of Liberty
15. Rex Lex v Lex Rex: Sir Edward Coke
16. Oedipus Lex: the Trial of Charles I
17. Free-Born John
18. From Restoration to Revolution and Reaction
19. The Purity of England's Air
20. The Menace of the Mob
21. The Fear of the Felon
22. Garrow's Law?
23. The Tongue of Cicero: Thomas Erskine
24. The Drum Major of Liberty: Henry Brougham
25. The Bonfire of the Inanities: Peel, Public Protection and the Police
26. Lunacy and the Law
27. Necessity Knows No Law
28. The Apollo of the Bar: Edward Marshall Hall
29. The 'Martyrdom of Adolf Beck' and the Creation of the Court of Criminal Appeal
30. Liberty Sacrificed to Security
31. Nuremberg and Norman Birkett
32. Wrongs and Rights
33. Deprave and Corrupt: Blasphemy, Obscenity and Oscar Wilde
34. Hanging in the Balance
35. A Murder in Catford
36. The Rule of Law under Threat?
37. Bibliography