RANTERS RUN AMOK by Leonard W. Levy


and Other Adventures in the History of the Law
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A strange bouquet in which stellar examples of scholarly jurisprudence mingle with freewheeling academic invective directed

toward those who have had the audacity to find fault with any of the author’s earlier writings.

In the collection’s best piece, prolific legal historian Levy (Blasphemy, 1993, etc.) proffers instruction about the Ranters,

an antinomian Cromwellian proto-hippie sect whose members were equally notorious for their radical rejection of legal authority

and their unbuttoned codpieces. Another essay probes the origins of the Fourth Amendment (which provides security against

unreasonable searches and seizures and requires warrants to be issued only on probable cause). Law is largely history, and this

is the kind of history that was enjoyed by many an attorney once upon a time, when the law was a learned profession rather than

just a business. As venerable professionals are wont to do, Levy presents, too, remembrances of some legal giants he’s known,

as well as an encomium to the great 19th-century chief justice of Massachusetts, Lemuel Shaw. An essay describing in tedious

detail how Pulitzer nominees are chosen, however, reveals a darker side of the historian, which flowers in several cantankerous

essays seeking to overwhelm past slights in inky torrents. Levy goes on about the perfidy of Harvard University Press in rejecting

a book. His manuscript was "a success; only the readers were failures." Contrary academics harbor opinions that are "a disgrace

to scholarship." Reviewers' reports are "contemptible and lacking in competence." Levy also offers the back of his hand to

critics of his Origins of the Fifth Amendment (1968), winner of a Pulitzer in history, as he seeks to persuade recalcitrant fools

and knaves how right he was.

It’s a strange miscellany, with some old-fashioned learning and enough abrasive intellectual argument to make the title rather

more apt than its author intended.

Pub Date: April 7th, 2000
ISBN: 1-56663-277-3
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Ivan Dee/Rowman & Littlefield
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2000


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