The Supreme Court: An Essential History / Edition 1

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For more than two centuries, the U.S. Supreme Court has provided a battleground for nearly every controversial issue in our nation's history. Now a veteran team of talented historians—including the editors of the acclaimed Landmark Law Cases and American Society series—have produced the most readable, astute, and up-to-date single-volume history of this venerated institution, as engaging for general readers as it is rigorous for scholars.

The Supreme Court chronicles an institution that dramatically evolved from six men meeting in borrowed quarters to the most closely watched tribunal in the world. Underscoring the close connection between law and politics, the authors highlight essential issues, cases, and decisions within the context of the times in which the decisions were handed down. Deftly combining doctrine and judicial biography with case law, they demonstrate how the justices have shaped the law and how the law that the Court makes has shaped our nation, with an emphasis on how the Court responded—or failed to respond-to the plight of the underdog.

Each chapter covers the Court's years under a specific Chief Justice, focusing on cases that are the most reflective of the way the Court saw the law and the world and that had the most impact on the lives of ordinary Americans. Throughout the authors reveal how-in times of war, class strife, or moral revolution-the Court sometimes voiced the conscience of the nation and sometimes seemed to lose its moral compass. Their extensive quotes from the Court's opinions and dissents illuminate its inner workings, as well as the personalities and beliefs of the justices and the often-contentious relationships among them.

Fair-minded and sharply insightful, The Supreme Court portrays an institution defined by eloquent and pedestrian decisions and by justices ranging from brilliant and wise to slow-witted and expedient. An epic and essential story, it illuminates the Court's role in our lives and its place in our history.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

How did the Supreme Court handle Indian rights in the early 19th century? What factors influenced the Court's decision in Roe v. Wade?This timely survey looks at the intellectual, social, cultural, economic and political events that have influenced the legal history of the Court. The authors (two professors of history and one professor of law) consider whether the court is a political institution and whether in the course of two centuries "the justices have... remade the Constitution." The 15 concise chapters, each devoted to one chief justice's tenure, look at major cases and offer thumbnail sketches of each justice as individuals with unique personalities, special interests and independent judicial perspectives who "never backed away" from their role "as final arbiters of the meaning of the Constitution." The authors make evident the framers' original intent to create a Constitution founded on immutable ideals yet responsive to evolving standards through the amendment process. This illuminating re-examination is essential for those who want a historical context for current debates about America's politics and fundamental principles. 25 photos. (Sept.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

This ambitious book chronicles the Supreme Court from its colonial origins to the end of the Rehnquist era. Peter Charles Hoffer (history, Univ. of Georgia), Williamjames Hoffer (history, Seton Hall Coll.), and N.E.H. Hull (Distinguished Professor of Law, Rutgers Univ.) combine their expertise to give their topic a thorough exploration, moving chronologically from the Constitutional Convention through each chief justice's time on the Court. One of the book's strengths is the discussion of the associate justices and their particular contributions. For example, in U.Sv. Carolene Products(1938), involving issues of economic regulation, Justice Harlan Fiske Stone's footnote said that certain matters, such as instances of discrimination against minorities, might require stricter standards of judicial review. Such standards were applied to women's rights, civil rights, and criminals' rights by later courts and are in force today. The authors also discuss the issues that shaped each era, such as civil rights during the Warren Court, and note in an epilog that at the start of the Roberts era the Court's future path is unclear. The book's historical rather than strictly legal contextualizing distinguishes it from other Court histories. Recommended for academic and large public libraries.
—Becky Kennedy

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780700615384
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas
  • Publication date: 7/24/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 504
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Charles Hoffer is Distinguished Research Professor of History at the University of Georgia. Williamjames Hull Hoffer is assistant professor of history at Seton Hall University. N. E. H. Hull is Distinguished Professor of Law at Rutgers University Law School. Collectively they have authored, coauthored, and edited more than three dozen books.
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Table of Contents



Part I. The Heroic Courts

1. The Origins of the U.S. Supreme Court

2. The Jay and Ellsworth Courts, 1789-1801

3. The Marshall Court, 1801-1835

4. The Taney Court, 1836-1864

5. The Chase Court, 1864-1873

Part II. The Classical Courts

6. The Waite Court, 1874-1888

7. The Fuller Court, 1888-1910

8. The White Court, 1910-1921

9. The Taft Court, 1921-1930

10. The Hughes Court, 1930-1941

Part III. The Modern Courts

11. The Stone Court, 1941-1946

12. The Vinson Court, 1946-1952

13. The Warren Court, 1953-1969

14. The Burger Court, 1969-1986

15. The Rehnquist Court, 1986-2005

Epilogue. The Court Today and Tomorrow


Bibliographic Essay


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