A Life of H. L. A. Hart: The Nightmare and the Noble Dream

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Overview

H.L.A. Hart was the pre-eminent legal philosopher of the twentieth century. As a scholar he single-handedly reinvented the philosophy of law and revolutionized our understanding of law as a social institution. Hart's approach to legal philosophy was at once disarmingly simple and breathtakingly ambitious, combining the insights of the Utilitarian tradition and the new linguistic philosophy of J.L. Austin and Ludwig Wittgenstein. He sought to elucidate a concept of law that would be of relevance to all forms of law, wherever or whenever they arose.

This book is both an intellectual and a psychological biography, following his life from modest origins as the son of Jewish tailor parents in Yorkshire to worldwide fame as the most influential English-speaking legal theorist of the post-War era. It traces his successive metamorphoses; from Yorkshire schoolboy to Oxford scholar, successful barrister, intelligence officer, philosopher, and, finally, Professor of Jurisprudence at Oxford.

Nicola Lacey draws upon Hart's previously unpublished diaries and letters to reveal a complex interior life. Outwardly successful, Hart was in fact tormented by doubts about his intellectual abilities, his sexual identity and his capacity to form close relationships. Her biography also sheds fascinating light on the origins of his ideas, and assesses his overall contribution to the philosophy of law. Above all, it is a chronicle of a life which made an impact far greater than many of us realize.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A brilliant mix of tightly reported intimate biography and expert intellectual assessment."—Carlin Romano, The Chronicle of Higher Education

"This fascinating and touching biographys secret lies in a unique intergenerational encounter that turned into a rich, albeit posthumous, human relationship between one of the twentieth century's most brilliant legal philosophers and a younger fellow jurisprude who is most probably one of the most perceptive feminist legal theorists of her generation."—German Law Journal

"Nicola Lacey's biography of H.L.A. Hart offers a wonderful sense of what it was like to be an English legal academic in the post-war years, of how work and life might have interacted to produce serious scholarship."—John Henry Schlegel, State University of New York at Buffalo

"The fascinating biography of a complex and brilliant man. Lacey's account vividly recreates the postwar Oxford climate in philosophy and jurisprudence, and paints Hart's life inside and outside the university with sensitivity, wit, and authority."—Simon Blackburn, Professor of Philosophy, University of Cambridge

"And the wonderful thing is Professor Lacey never sells Hart s ideas short, never underestimates the content of his work both as a jurist and as a public intellectual even while she brings his family, his circle of friends, and his personality to life. We end up learning as much about secondary rules in the law as we learn about wartime espionage and the lucid prose of this biography makes them both into an enjoyable and profitable experience."—Jeremy Waldron, Maurice and Hilda Friedman Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Law and Philosophy, Columbia University

"A fine piece of work and a good read. Lacey has left absolutely no stones unturned in her search for the writing of this life. The end product is as good as a biography of a distinguished as can beand one that provides a fascinating window into the world of the Oxford dons back in what now seems their golden age."
A.W. Brian Simpson, Michigan Law Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199202775
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 6/22/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 456
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 6.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Nicola Lacey is Professor of Criminal Law and Legal Theory at the London School of Economics and Adjunct Professor of Social and Political Theory at the Research School of Social Sciences of the Australian National University. She is a Fellow of the British Academy.

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Table of Contents

List of illustrations
Acknowledgments
Biographer's Note on Approach and Sources
Introduction: An Outsider on the Inside
Part I: North and South
1: Harrogate, Cheltenham, Bradford
2: An Oxford Scholar
3: Success Snatched from Defeat: London and the Bar
Part II: Change and Continuity
4: Jenifer
5: From the Inns of Court to Military Intelligence: MI5, Marriage, and Fatherhood
6: Oxford from the Other Side of the Fence
Part III: The Golden Age
7: Selling Philosophy to the Lawyers: The Chair of Jurisprudence
8: American Jurisprudence through English Eyes: Harvard 1956-7
9: Law in the Perspective of Philosophy: Causation and the Law, The Concept of Law
10: West and East, California and Israel: Law, Liberty and Morality; Kelsen Visited; The Morality of the Criminal Law
11: Discipline, Punishment, and Responsibility
Part IV: After the Chair
12: Old Turks and Young Fogeys: Bentham and Brasenose
13: The Nightmare and the Noble Dream
Notes
Bibliography: HLA Hart
Bibliography: Other authors
List of Interviewees
Biographical details on figures appearing in the book

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