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Lord Mansfield: Justice in the Age of Reason [Kindle Edition]

Norman S. Poser
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

In the first modern biography of Lord Mansfield (1705-1793), Norman Poser details the turbulent political life of eighteenth-century Britain's most powerful judge, serving as chief justice for an unprecedented thirty-two years. His legal decisions launched England on the path to abolishing slavery and the slave trade, modernized commercial law in ways that helped establish Britain as the world's leading industrial and trading nation, and his vigorous opposition to the American colonists stoked Revolutionary fires.

Although his father and brother were Jacobite rebels loyal to the deposed King James II, Mansfield was able to rise through English society to become a member of its ruling aristocracy and a confidential advisor to two kings. Poser sets Mansfield's rulings in historical context while delving into Mansfield's circle, which included poets (Alexander Pope described him as "his country's pride"), artists, actors, clergymen, noblemen and women, and politicians. Still celebrated for his application of common sense and moral values to the formal and complicated English common law system, Mansfield brought a practical and humanistic approach to the law. His decisions continue to influence the legal systems of Canada, Britain, and the United States to an extent unmatched by any judge of the past.

An illuminating account of one of the greatest legal minds, Lord Mansfield presents a vibrant look at Britain's Age of Reason through one of its central figures.

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"A remarkable portrait of both a man and a legal age. I enjoyed the book tremendously, learned so much, and am deeply grateful. A master work." Kent Syverud, Washington University School of Law

About the Author

Norman S. Poser is professor emeritus at Brooklyn Law School.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Major Work on a Major Jurist 7 Jun. 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Lord Mansfield is best know for the judgment he made in the case of the slave James Somerset, but he is much more important than just for this one decision. He transformed the common law and, after Edward Coke, is our greatest jurist. He was a product of the great Act of Union in 1707 as he was the first Scot to hold the position of Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench. A Scotsman would leave his indelible mark on the English common Law.

This major work is to be welcomed. It is the first biography of this remarkable man in many years. It is well written and reads well, informing academic and layman alike

It does have the odd error or inconsistency, such as when in p.119 Poser states that there were over eighty members of the Privy Council while on p1.124 he writes of 'about sixty members.' No one is perfect, not even Lord Mansfield let alone his biographer.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating account of a major legal figure 21 May 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Intriguing example of how a leading figure in the judiciary can be constrained by his political views and yet follow the law to go beyond them. Also how personal life and ambition play against public duty. Very contemporary figure in amny ways: not least in his activist approach to the law and his willingness to go beyond the common law to develop it in directions he believed it should take.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Poser has taken a monumental character of his time but still showed him as a human being-frailties and all. The scope of the book--dividing it between his personal life and the later section covering the enormous number of cases he heard makes for compelling reading and a wonderful insight to life in the 18th century
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At the birth of the modern common law.... 29 April 2014
By Phillip Taylor TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Length: 0:28 Mins

An appreciation by Phillip Taylor MBE and Elizabeth Taylor of Richmond Green Chambers

If you are an English lawyer, whether barrister or solicitor, you will have heard of the name and fame of Lord Mansfield without necessarily knowing much about him. If you are an American or Canadian lawyer, interestingly, you'll probably know a little bit more about him but not a lot. But more of that later! It is a pleasure therefore, to review Norman S. Poser's new biography of this renowned personality rightly described as eighteenth century Britain's most powerful judge. It is perhaps startling to be reminded that until the publication of this book from McGill-Queens University Press, there apparently has been no full-length life story about Mansfield written in modern times.

Such was Mansfield's influence on the development of English common law that, as the publishers point out, `his decisions continue to influence the legal systems of Canada, Britain and the United States of America to an extent unmatched by any judge of the past.'

Or, in Poser's words, `his influence on the law of the English speaking world, evidenced by the fact that the United States Supreme Court has cited his decisions over 330 times, has continued into the twenty-first century.'

It may come as a surprise to some, but not others, that Lord Mansfield has been referred to by at least one historian as `arguably the most famous and influential Anglo-American judge of the modern era.'

`Anglo-American' might not have been a term Mansfield would have applied to himself.
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