Holdsworth, William S. Charles Dickens as a Legal Historian. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1929. 157 pp. Reprinted 1995 by The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd. LCCN 96-46579. ISBN 1-886363-06-4. Cloth. $40. * "The distinguished English historian, Professor Holdsworth, has contrived even during his moments of recreation to render us his debtors. No two books outside the bounds of technical law are more worth reading for law students than Pickwick Papers and Bleak House. Even a trained trial lawyer however, is puzzled by some of the legal points brought up by Dickens, because they have fortunately passed forever out of the realm of living law. Professor Holdsworth has performed a valuable service to lawyers and laymen alike in explaining these obscurities. And he has done much more than this. He has increased our admiration for the genius of Dickens by proving his great merit as a legal historian.": Zechariah Chafee, Jr. Harvard Law Review 42:286-8.
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The labyrinthine, ingenious plot of Bleak House focuses on the seemingly endless lawsuit Jarndyce and Jarndyce, an inheritance dispute that has been moving through the courts for years. Dozens of characters, including the innocent young narrator Esther Summerson, her friends Richard Carstone and Ada Clare, and the jaded aristocrats Sir Leicester and Lady Honoria Dedlock, are directly or indirectly caught up in the case. Written in bold and inventive language, Bleak House is Dickens’s epic vision of Victorian society. The critical introduction and extensive appendices to this edition focus on the novel’s social context and reception, Dickens’s treatment of his women characters and the working class, and the inequalities of the Victorian legal system.
Modern criminal courts are characteristically the domain of lawyers, with trials conducted in an environment of formality and solemnity, where facts are found and legal rules are impartially applied to administer justice. Recent historical scholarship has shown that in England lawyers only began to appear in ordinary criminal trials during the eighteenth century, however, and earlier trials often took place in an atmosphere of noise and disorder, where the behaviour of the crowd - significant body language, meaningful looks, and audible comment - could influence decisively the decisions of jurors and judges. This collection of essays considers this transition from early scenes of popular participation to the much more orderly and professional legal proceedings typical of the nineteenth century, and links this with another important shift, the mushroom growth of popular news and comment about trials and punishments which occurred from the later seventeenth century. It hypothesizes that the popular participation which had been a feature of courtroom proceedings before the mid-eighteenth century was not stifled by ‘lawyerization’, but rather partly relocated to the ‘public sphere’ of the press, partly because of some changes connected with the work of the lawyers. Ranging from the early 1700s to the mid-nineteenth century, and taking account of criminal justice proceedings in Scotland, as well as England, the essays consider whether pamphlets, newspapers, ballads and crime fiction provided material for critical perceptions of criminal justice proceedings, or alternatively helped to convey the official ‘majesty’ intended to legitimize the law. In so doing the volume opens up fascinating vistas upon the cultural history of Britain’s legal system over the ‘long eighteenth century'.
Holdsworth, William S. Essays in Law and History. Edited by A.L. Goodhart and H.G. Hanbury. Oxford: At the Clarendon Press, 1946. xv, 302 pp. Reprinted 1995 by The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd. LCCN 99-047234. ISBN 1-886363-13-7. Cloth. $75. * This volume collects seventeen essays the great legal scholar wrote over the course of his very prolific career. Topics chosen include martial law, the English constitution, case law, equity, trusts, libel, law reporting in the nineteenth- and twentieth-centuries, contract and land law, among others. "The constitutional historian, the international lawyer, the real property expert, the common law practitioner, the civilian and even the general reader will each find something to his address. It is a book to browse and enjoy at leisure.": Law Quarterly Review 64:120-2. The book concludes with a table of cases and name and general indexes.
Holdsworth, Sir William. An Historical Introduction to the Land Law. London: Oxford University Press, 1927. xxiv, 339 pp. Reprinted 2004 by The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd. LCCN 2002025949. ISBN 1-58477-262-X. Cloth. $95. * Sir William Holdsworth [1871-1944] was one of the most distinguished historians of English common law. Written to provide students of Real Property with a concise history of the field, Holdsworth believed this knowledge necessary as contemporary land law was difficult to understand without an understanding of its roots. Fifoot commends this book in his English Law and its Background for its history of the rules against perpetuities (121). The Law Quarterly Review noted that "every beginner will certainly have to read [this] book before he reads anything else" (44:105). Both sources cited in Marke, A Catalogue of the Law Collection at New York University (1953) 773.
Holdsworth, W.S. The Historians of Anglo-American Law. New York: Columbia University Press, 1928. 175 pp. Reprinted 1994 by The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd. ISBN 0-9630106-9-7. Cloth. $50. * In chronological order, beginning with Coke and Selden, Holdsworth surveys the work of the great practitioners of Anglo-American legal history. No one interested in the growth of Anglo-American law can fail to read with pleasure and profit this stimulating treatment of the development of legal history.
Novel Judgements is a book about nineteenth century Anglo-American law and literature. But by redefining law as legal theory, Novel judgements departs from ‘socio-legal’ studies of law and literature, often dated in their focus on past lawyering and court processes. This texts ‘theoretical turn’ renders the period’s ‘law-and-literature’ relevant to today’s readers because the nineteenth century novel, when "read jurisprudentially", abounds in representations of law’s controlling concepts, many of which are still with us today. Rights, justice, law’s morality; each are encoded novelistically in stock devices such as the country house, friendship, love, courtship and marriage. In so rendering the public (law) as private (domesticity), these novels expose for legal and literary scholars alike the ways in which law comes to mediate all relationships—individual and collective, personal and political—during the nineteenth century, a period as much under the Rule of Law as the reign of Capital. So these novels pass judgement—a novel judgement—on the extent to which the nineteenth century’s idea of law is collusive with that era’s Capital, thereby opening up the possibility of a new legal theoretical position: that of a critique of the law and a law of critique.