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Oliver Wendell Holmes: A Life in War, Law, and Ideas

Stephen Budiansky



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WW Norton & Co
01 June 2019
Biography: general; Legal profession: general; Legal history; Government powers
Oliver Wendell Holmes twice escaped death as a young Union officer in the Civil War when musket balls missed his heart and spinal cord by a fraction of an inch at the Battles of Ball's Bluff and Antietam. He lived ever after with unwavering moral courage, unremitting scorn for dogma, and an insatiable intellectual curiosity.

Named to the Supreme Court by Theodore Roosevelt at age sixty-one, he served for nearly three decades, writing a series of famous, eloquent, and often dissenting opinions that would prove prophetic in securing freedom of speech, protecting the rights of criminal defendants, and ending the Court's reactionary resistance to social and economic reforms.

As a pioneering legal scholar, Holmes revolutionized the understanding of common law by showing how the law always evolved to meet the changing needs of society. As an enthusiastic friend and indefatigable correspondent, he wrote thousands of personal letters brimming with humorous philosophical insights, trenchant comments on the current scene, and an abiding joy in fighting the good fight.

Drawing on many previously unpublished letters and records, Stephen Budiansky's definitive biography offers the fullest portrait yet of this pivotal American figure, whose zest for life, wit, and intellect left a profound legacy in law and Constitutional rights, and who was an inspiring example of how to lead a meaningful life in a world of uncertainty and upheaval.
By:   Stephen Budiansky
Imprint:   WW Norton & Co
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 244mm,  Width: 163mm,  Spine: 38mm
Weight:   961g
ISBN:   9780393634723
ISBN 10:   0393634728
Pages:   592
Publication Date:   01 June 2019
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Stephen Budiansky is a historian, author, and journalist whose writing has appeared in the Atlantic, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post. A recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship, he resides in Loudoun County, Virginia.

Reviews for Oliver Wendell Holmes: A Life in War, Law, and Ideas

A lively and informative portrait of the great justice.--Robert C. Post, Sterling Professor of Law, Yale Law School The longevity and complexity of Holmes's life and judicial philosophy present a formidable challenge to a biographer. Stephen Budiansky has met that challenge in distinguished fashion. Weaving together Holmes's private and public lives with a clarity that reveals what had often seemed obscure in previous biographies, this book also shows how Holmes's experience as a thrice-wounded Civil War officer subtly shaped his social and juridical ideas during the next seventy years.--James M. McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era Top-notch....Turning the influential judge's life into a page turner seems a highly difficult task, but journalist and historian Budiansky succeeds admirably....An entirely fascinating biography of one of America's most important legal minds.--Kirkus (starred review)

  • Long-listed for PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography 2020
  • Short-listed for PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography 2020

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