Jonathan Sumption

Trial by Sword

The Verdict of Battle: The Law of Victory and the Making of Modern War


Harvard University Press 323pp £22.95 order from our bookshop

James Whitman is a professor of law at Yale who is interested in the social and cultural roots of law. He is best known for his extended essays on the differences between American and European approaches to such matters as privacy, criminal evidence and capital punishment. At a time of growing insularity among American lawyers, his breadth of outlook is refreshing. He has a universal curiosity. His historical knowledge is impressive. He writes with elegance and wit. But his problem is a taste for paradox that gets in the way of his judgement, something which makes his books fascinating and infuriating in roughly equal measure.

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