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A book on the history of the common law that is actually interesting, even riveting, and for the general public is quite a achievement. This one fits the bill and fills a lucuna. Beginning with the Anglo-Saxon period it storms through the ages to end up at the present day, it is replete with fascinating detail, extraordinary characters, and cases on slavery, insanity, and survival cannibalism among others. It covers a wealth of material in a most palatable form. Thomas Erskine is the star barrister, defending dissident writers such as Thomas Paine, and those accused of constructive treason in a nation paranoid in the wake of the French Revolution, and effectively defining the law on insanity. He is joined by William Garrow, a pioneer of cross-examination, Marshall Hall known as the Apollo of the bar, who could provoke hysteria by his forensic performances, and Norman Birkett who helped define the law on war crimes at Nuremberg. Throughout runs the thread of hard won liberties and freedoms defined and defended by our legal system, and enshrined in our constitutions
The emphasis is very much on its development in England, but its importance to other common law jurisdictions, and the United States in particular, is obvious.
In this the eight hundredth anniversary year of Magna Carta (about which it has a brilliant resume), this publication is most apposite and a compelling read. A indispensable vademecum, with an engaging turn of phrase
 

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