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Free Speech in its Forgotten Years, 1870-1920 / Edition 1

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Freedom of speech is a central tenet of the American way of life that is tested and fought over seemingly every day. Curiously, people who follow and study free speech issues assume that controversies and litigation about free speech began abruptly during World War I. The surprising research in this original book reveals that this conventional view is incorrect, and that the previously unknown history of free speech between the Civil War and World War I is rich and varied. For instance, the author shows that important free speech controversies, often involving the activities of sex reformers and labor unions, preceded the Espionage Act of 1917. A significant organization, the Free Speech League, became a principled defender of free expression two decades before the establishment of the ACLU in 1920. Free Speech in Its Forgotten Years uncovers a major episode in the history of American liberal thought. Furthermore, it sheds light on key current debates about "rights talk" and about the complicated historical enterprise of studying ideas over time. It should be of interest to people who follow free speech and civil liberties issues as well as people involved in women's and labor history.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Free Speech in Its Forgotten Years fundamentally revises our understanding of the history of free speech in America between the 1870s and World War I. Rabban skillfully recovers libertarian and antilibertarian attitudes toward speech that a long tradition of twentieth-century commentary has ignored." G. Edward White, University Professor and John B. Minor Professor of Law and History, University of Virginia

"Future scholarship on the First Amendment will henceforth begin with this exceptional book. Rabban wholly reorients free speech history with newly mined facts and sharp insights about two lost generations of scholars, activists, and their fierce struggles." Norman Dorsen, Stokes Professor of Law, New York University, and President, ACLU, 1976-1991

"David Rabban has done more than ensure that First Amendment scholars will never again forget the historical significance of the period 1870 to 1920. His extraordinarily rich and detailed account should become a central document in contemporary debates over the meaning and application of the speech provision of the Constitution." Gary Jeffrey Jacobsohn, Fred Greene Third Century Professor of Jurisprudence and Politics, Williams College

"An important, truly eye-opening account of the heretofore neglected national encounters with free speech issues during the decades preceding World War I. Rabban's greatest achievement is his skill in interweaving absorbing social and intellectual history with a thorough and careful analysis of the legal arguments ignored by the Supreme Court until 1919." Gerald Gunther, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law, Emeritus, Stanford Law School

"David Rabban's Free Speech in Its Forgotten Years constitutes an important occasion in the history of the First Amendment. This is an enormously important book for lawyers, historians—and for the general public." Stanley N. Katz, Princeton University

"David Rabban's formidable research has uncovered a fascinating story which everyone devoted to civil liberties will want to read. He challenges much that we thought we knew about the origins of the American Civil Liberties Union, and offers new perspectives on the history of American reformers." Linda K. Kerber, May Brodbeck in the Liberal Arts and Professor of History, University of Iowa

"Rabban's solid history deepens our understanding of civil liberties in America..." Washington Post

Rabban has produced nothing less than a masterpiece....Highly recommended for all readers, general and academic, at all levels." M. W. Bowers, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

"Rabban interestingly and compellingly makes his case that there was, during the 'forgotten years' from about 1870 to about 1920, a substantial body of free speech law rarely mentioning the First Amendment and almost invariably repressive." The Federal Lawyer

"Highly readable for a book on a heavy topic." American-Statesman

Library Journal
Challenging the view that free speech controversies and court cases effectively began during World War I, Rabban (law, Univ. of Texas, Austin) focuses on free speech issues between the Civil War and World War I. Through an impressive marshaling of controversies, cases, and litigants, he persuasively argues that libertarian radicalism and the Free Speech League, more than traditional American liberalism and the American Civil Liberties Union, deserve much of the credit for pushing valuable First Amendment issues to the forefront of American social, political, and legal circles. Of particular note is Rabban's treatment of the tension between libertarian radicalism and American liberalism, especially in the context of the debate over the meaning and application of the free speech provision of the First Amendment. This enlightening work fills a void in First Amendment civil liberties studies. Deserving careful scrutiny by scholars and others alike, it is highly recommended for all libraries.Stephen Kent Shaw, Northwest Nazarene Coll., Nampa, Id.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521655378
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 11/13/1999
  • Series: Cambridge Historical Studies in American Law and Society
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 422
  • Sales rank: 971,809
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction; 1. The lost tradition of libertarian radicalism; 2. The IWW free speech fights; 3. The courts and free speech; 4. Legal scholarship; 5. Free speech in progressive social thought; 6. The Espionage Act; 7. World War I and the creation of the modern Civil Liberties Movement; 8. Holmes, Brandeis, and the judicial transformation of the First Amendment after World War I; 9. Epilogue: current parallels to prewar progressive thought.

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