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Paperback The Common Law Book

ISBN: 0760754985

ISBN13: 9780760754986

The Common Law

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Book Overview

Based on the lectures - which were given at the Lowell Institute in Boston and subsequently published in 1880, this title mirrors what common law is: a complex and diffuse combination of actual cases, history, analysis, and philosophy - all woven together to create the rules by which we live.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Book review

Even though this book,was written along time ago it is still relevant. This was on my reading list for law school.it open my eyes to new ideas and and critical thinking.

Not an "elaborate joke"

This comment doesn't attempt to assess Holmes' classic work. I write, however, to note that the other gentleman's comment about this work being possibly an "elaborate joke" is ludicrious and disprovable. In a letter reproduced in The Essential Holmes, edited by Richard Posner, Holmes discusses giving up all pleasure for a year to write this book and of his hopes of getting some recognition from British commentators for it. Holmes' prose is occasionally arcane, but enduring the tics of a writing style rooted in Civil War America is a small price to pay in exchange for experiencing the thoughts of one of the most formative legal minds in American history. "The Literature of the past is a bore--when one has said that frankly to oneself then one can proceed to qualify and make exceptions." Oliver Wendell Holmes, Letter to Frederick Pollack, April 6, 1924, reproduced in The Essential Holmes, edited by Richard Posner, page 19. If the prospective of tackling the Common Law still strikes you as momentous, reading the Essential Holmes, which has excerpts from The Common Law, is a good compromise. Holmes's many letters and opinions therein are very accessible.

The Philosophical Basis For Our Legal System

This book is a little tedious for us non-lawyers, but it does illustrate some interesting points:Law emerged from the need to get away from revenge/feud dynamics. And it originated during times when most people couldn't write, so the issue of proving a case (such as in a agreement) is troublesome (especially in times when plagues and such could kill witnesses at any time). The world is a fuzzy set, and yet the law needs to set a finite set of rules in place, so exceptions constantly challenge. The needs of the state can supercede the issue of fairness, such as in the rule that "ignorance is no excuse". Judges are generally friends of the wealthy and not compatriots of the commoner. If a man has large debts, and dies, how can his children, who were not party to the agreements, be held liable via the estate? Many such questions arise and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. tries to address the fluid basis for our legal system.

classic work

Oliver Wendell Holmes is regarded as one of the finest American jurists in history; this book deserves the accolades it has received.

Worth more than one reading

This is one of those books that deserves more than one read. Some books are to be read more than once, because the content or style is too difficult - for some The Common Law may be one of those books. But others, like this one, deserve to be read more than once because every reading brings out more depth in the material. I originally read Holmes' work in the context of trying to understand the legal background of contemporary American controversies such as gun control, abortion rights and so on. I didn't discover much about those issues, but I WAS inspired to study law. Reading The Common Law (and Blackstone's Commentaries) was one of the crucial factors in my deciding to go to law school. Though there are some who feel that the style is "stilted" or "old-fashioned" it is in many ways a style profoundly more readable and even more beautiful than is much of the writing published today, and I can only lament that there are few contemporary writers who can match the fluency and clarity of Holmes. If you are at all interested in the law or in the historical aspects of society as affected by law, and if you enjoy books written in better than average English, then this is certainly one you should read.
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