- Hardcover: 422 pages
- Publisher: OUP Oxford; 1st edition (20 April 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0199274975
- ISBN-13: 978-0199274970
- Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 3.3 x 16 cm
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1 customer review)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 936,121 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- See Complete Table of Contents
A Life of H. L. A. Hart: The Nightmare and the Noble Dream Hardcover – 20 Apr 2006
- Choose from over 13,000 locations across the UK
- Prime members get unlimited deliveries at no additional cost
- Find your preferred location and add it to your address book
- Dispatch to this address when you check out
Customers Who Viewed This Item Also Viewed
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Overall this is an outstanding biography of a fascinating personality which will appeal to readers interested in Hart, jurisprudence or Oxford academic life. (The Journal of Intelligence History)
Outstanding biography. He deserves a perceptive biography, and Nicola Lacey has provided one. (TLS)
For me, a biography addict, this is certainly the biography of 2004 (Baroness Warnock, The Times Higher Education Supplement)
Impressive new biography (Noel Malcolm, The Sunday Telegraph Review)
This is a stunning achievement. Nicola Lacey has thrown a wonderful light, not only on H.L.A. Hart, the man, his life, his marriage, his war-work, his sexuality, his self-doubt, his experience of anti-Semitism, but also on the Oxford of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, and by extension the circle of friends in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in New York, in Jerusalem, and all over the world in whose company he developed his ideas and made his massive contribution to jurisprudence. (Jeremy Waldron, Maurice and Hilda Friedman Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Law and Philosophy, Columbia University)
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)
About the Author
Nicola Lacey is Professor of Criminal Law, 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.
Top Customer Reviews
A good read and excellent source of reference for anyone interested in law or philosophy.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Lacey had access to the most private of Hart's papers, his private diaries. While invaluable insights result, one is almost at times uneasy with the most intimate thoughts that Hart expressed in these writings. Lacey shares this concern, and in a "rule of thumb" describes what guidelines she imposed upon herself in the use of this material. This leads naturally to a second fundamental question--do we really need to know about such intimate issues as sexual orientation in the biography of a jurisprudential thinker? Each reader will have to make their own decision--but one really does get an incomparable insight into Hart the person as a result. In my view, it is healthy to be reminded from time to time that major figures such as Hart are people just like the rest of us and don't reside on some intellectual Olympus.
The narrative is crisp and with the exception of an overly long chapter on Hart's wartime service, never ceases to spark interest. The blending of Hart's theoretical contributions within the context of a biography is a challenge that is more than well met. The fact that Lacey personally knew Hart adds an important dimension as well. Also making apperances are a number of fascinating characters, including Hans Kelsen, Julius Stone, Lon Fuller, Ronald Dworkin and a host of Oxford philosophers. In her "Biographer's Note," Lacey explains a number of key issues she confronted in writing Hart's life, which in itself is an important contribution to the literature on biographical writing. Whether one is particularly interested in legal theory or not, this is simply one of the most extraordinary and important biographies to appear in recent years.
(...) I found the book particularly engaging because of my interest in legal philosophy, ordinary language philosophy, and Ronald Dworkin. Non-academics might find the author's discussion of these difficult subjects hard to follow and frustrating. However, the author does not obsess about these difficult matters and on the whole handles these technical subjects with grace and a soft touch. I would recommend the book to any person who is interested in the private life of a public philosopher. For those with an interest in legal philosophy and particularly modern positivism, this book is a "must read." Nicola Lacey -- Bravo!
The book draws on Hart's copious letters, diaires, and notebooks to reconstruct his inner life in intimate detail. We learn about his anxieties, his homosexuality, and his tortured marriage. We read about his cluttered offices and his love of literature and nature. We learn about his Jewish "outsider" background and his need to be accepted in Oxford's stuffy society. We read excerpts from letters written during his travels in Europe, New Zealand, the U.S., and India. We learn that he was ambivalent about fatherhood yet devoted to his children, especially to his autistic youngest son. We even learn how media allegations that Hart's wife spied for the Soviet Union in the 1930s and '40s brought on a late-life nervous breakdown that was treated with electro-shock therapy.
Hart seems to have led a life of perpetual torment. In spite of his intellectual prowess, academic success, and great capacity for friendship, he was riddled with self-doubt and insecurity. And even though he loved his wife, their marriage was a lifelong source of heartache and sexual frustration (for both of them). If a successful biography opens a window on the inner emotional life of its subject, then "A Life of H.L.A Hart" is a major success.
But while the book teaches us much about Hart the man, it leaves Hart the thinker and lawyer strangely underdeveloped. In particular, it tells us little about the technical content of Hart's legal philosophy, which revolutionized jurisprudence and influenced an entire generation of younger legal philosophers including Ronald Dworkin, Joseph Raz and John Finnis. Similarly, we learn little about Hart's non-Oxford professional life. He worked as a London barrister and served with MI5 before joining Oxford's faculty in mid-life, and later served on official bodies such as the monopolies commission. These experiences are given short shrift even though they are interesting in their own right and surely shaped Hart's view of law and policy.
Bottomline: I loved "A Life of H.L.A. Hart." It's a psychological pageturner, and I devoured much of it on a long plane flight. But then I've read "The Concept of Law" (Hart's masterwork) four times and was able to fill in the intellectual gaps in "Life." Unfortunately, the author apparently was content to mine the trove of Hart's personal papers without doing broader research into the events and circumstances of his life and career. I'm not sure whether anyone not already a fan of Hart would get more than 100 pages into this book.
Look for similar items by category
- Books > Biography > Historical > Britain > Military
- Books > Biography > Historical > Britain > Social & Urban History
- Books > Biography > Historical > Social & Urban History
- Books > Biography > Medical, Legal & Social Sciences > Legal
- Books > Biography > Medical, Legal & Social Sciences > Philosophy
- Books > Biography > Political > Britain
- Books > Business, Finance & Law > Law
- Books > Society, Politics & Philosophy > Academic Philosophy
- Books > Society, Politics & Philosophy > Philosophy
- Books > Society, Politics & Philosophy > Social Sciences > Multicultural Studies > Jewish Studies