Sunday, January 12, 2014

Sunday Book Roundup

This week the Los Angeles Review of Books reviews Thomas Healy's The Great Dissent: How Oliver Wendell Holmes Changed His Mind—and Changed the History of Free Speech in America (Metropolitan).
"In March 1919, the most illustrious figure in American law, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., speaking for a unanimous court, upheld the Espionage Act convictions of Eugene Debs and several other socialists, who opposed the United States going to war. But by November 1919, barely eight months later, Holmes had changed his mind. The majority of the Court affirmed the convictions of a group of Jewish anarchists under the Sedition Act by simply relying on Holmes’s earlier opinion. But Holmes instead wrote a powerful dissent, joined by Justice Louis Brandeis, upholding First Amendment protection for antiwar speech. 
In The Great Dissent: How Oliver Wendell Holmes Changed His Mind — and Changed the History of Free Speech in America, Thomas Healy uses this fascinating transformation in Holmes’s thinking about the First Amendment to explore the very invention of free speech in the Supreme Court."
H-Net adds several interesting new reviews, including two in women's history: a review of Lewis L. Gould's Edith Kermit Roosevelt:Creating the Modern First Lady (University Press of Kansas) (here), and another of Lucia McMahon's Mere Equals: The Paradox of Educated Women in the Early American Republic (Cornell University Press) (here).

Other new reviews on H-Net are of Nico Slate's Black Power beyond Borders: The Global Dimensions of the Black Power Movement (Routledge) (here), and of John Virtue's The Black Soldiers Who Built the Alaska Highway: A History of Four U.S. Army Regiments in the North, 1942-1943 (McFarland) (here). Of the latter book, the reviewer writes,
"The most interesting parts of the book are the ones when Virtue looks at the effects of discrimination and segregation, interracial contacts between black soldiers and Canadian and Alaskan locals, and stories of protest and revolt. The most promising in this respect are chapters 13 through 16. However, Virtue, unfortunately, often only scratches the surface and does not delve deeper into the analysis of the important stories that he tells."
The Guardian has a review of two books--How We Invented Freedom and Why it Matters (Head of Zeus) by Daniel Hannan and Acts of Union and Disunion (Profile Books) by Linda Colley.
"Linda Colley is such a good writer I'd buy her shopping lists if anyone published them. Her essays on the myths of Britishness contain a warning against Hannan's double standards. "The cult of superior British liberty," she says, "has often been deployed to uphold and maintain the political status quo." The best you can say is that liberty moves fitfully in Britain, she continues. After the 1832 Reform Act, a higher proportion of the male population was enfranchised in Britain than in almost any other European country. By 1900, the franchise was one of the narrowest in Europe. The soldiers we will commemorate in 2014 marched to the Somme to defend democratic rights many of them did not enjoy."