An absorbing and well-written introductory history to Anglo- American law which should edify lawyer and layperson alike. Attorney Knight's book takes its title from the famous quote of Oliver Wendell Holmes: ``The life of the law has not been logic, it has been experience.'' Because ``the meaning of the law is becoming inaccessible not only to the public but to the bar itself,'' Knight presents a cursory but engaging and useful legal history of England and America. His historical vision sees the development of law as a haphazard series of events rather than a planned, grand scheme. Indeed, elaborating on Holmes's maxim, Knight observes, ``Courts are more like theaters than laboratories, and the truth they produce is felt and apprehended, not carefully measured out.'' Thus, Knight recounts legal history as discrete stories of the people and events which have shaped the major ideologies of our law. Eschewing the turgid prose and detail which typify many legal histories, Knight uses the lighter style of a storyteller, which makes for easy and enjoyable reading. The book consists of 21 chapters discussing the origins, development, and modern applications of pivotal concepts including freedom of the press, personal privacy and the rights of the criminally accused. One of the book's strengths is Knight's debunking of many popular myths. For instance, the Magna Carta did not establish a scheme of civil rights for mankind; Sir Thomas More was noble but no ``apostle of religious tolerance''; and England's Star Chamber did not conduct secret trials. No jurisprude, Knight presents little legal philosophy and scant criticism of legal doctrines; rather, he offers a light but compelling account of the life of the law.
Read full book review >