Protecting the Best Men: An Interpretive History of the Law of Libelby Norman L. Rosenberg
From the trial of John Peter Zenger in the eighteenth century to the recent libel cases of William Westmoreland and Ariel Sharon, political defamation cases have attracted considerable attention. As Norman Rosenberg shows, cases like these raise fundamental questions about how much criticism of public leaders a supposedly open, liberal society will permit.
Drawing upon a wide variety of historical sources, Protecting the Best Men argues that there exists no natural, evolutionary history of free speech. It also challenges interpretations that rest upon discovering an "original understanding" about the First Amendment. Instead, this interpretive history of the law of libel highlights the complexity and historically rooted nature of legal concepts and legal consciousness in the United States.
Originally published in 1990.
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Norman L. Rosenberg is coauthor of In Our Times and Generation of Americans.
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