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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.
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.