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Free Speech in its Forgotten Years, 1870–1920

Free Speech in its Forgotten Years, 1870–1920

$34.99 (G)

Part of Cambridge Historical Studies in American Law and Society

  • Date Published: November 1999
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521655378

$ 34.99 (G)

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About the Authors
  • 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.

    • Was the first book to examine free speech in America between Civil War and World War I
    • Puts current free speech issues in valuable historical perspective
    • Of interest to people interested in women's history, labour history, liberalism as well as free speech and civil liberties issues
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    Reviews & endorsements

    "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

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    Product details

    • Date Published: November 1999
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521655378
    • length: 422 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 153 x 22 mm
    • weight: 0.62kg
    • contains: 9 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    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.

  • Author

    David M. Rabban, University of Texas, Austin

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