Jonathan Sumption

Trial by Sword

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

By

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.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Something of an 'eccentric billionaire’s hobby': reviews 'The Space Barons: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and… ,
    • "At the age of fifteen, drunk on stolen Chardonnay or stoned on pot at a swimming party, the thoughts that come imm… ,
    • For the latest Bookends, here's Alan Taylor musing on his stint as an assistant librarian. ,
    • A ‘pretentious ass and impotent arriviste’ who surrounded himself with ‘degenerates, hooligans, childish layabouts,… ,
    • . reviews 'Aristotle’s Way: How Ancient Wisdom Can Change Your Life' by ,
    • "As Beevor shows, it was one of the most daring, dangerous and fiercely fought operations of the whole war. It was… ,
    • "The characters are very rich and very male, with astronomical ambitions. The potted biographies in this book sugge… ,