A Life of H. L. A. Hart: The Nightmare and the Noble Dream by Nicola Lacey

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By Nicola Lacey

H.L.A. Hart used to be the pre-eminent felony thinker of the 20th century. As a student he single-handedly reinvented the philosophy of legislations and revolutionized our knowing of legislation as a social establishment. Hart's method of criminal philosophy was once immediately disarmingly uncomplicated and breathtakingly formidable, combining the insights of the Utilitarian culture and the recent linguistic philosophy of J.L. Austin and Ludwig Wittgenstein. He sought to clarify an idea of legislation that might be of relevance to all sorts of legislation, at any place or each time they arose.

This booklet is either an highbrow and a mental biography, following his existence from modest origins because the son of Jewish tailor mom and dad in Yorkshire to all over the world popularity because the such a lot influential English-speaking felony theorist of the post-War period. It lines his successive metamorphoses; from Yorkshire schoolboy to Oxford pupil, winning barrister, intelligence officer, thinker, and, ultimately, Professor of Jurisprudence at Oxford.

Nicola Lacey attracts upon Hart's formerly unpublished diaries and letters to bare a fancy inside existence. Outwardly winning, Hart used to be in reality laid low with doubts approximately his highbrow talents, his sexual identification and his capability to shape shut relationships. Her biography additionally sheds attention-grabbing mild at the origins of his rules, and assesses his total contribution to the philosophy of legislation. in particular, it's a chronicle of a existence which made an impression a ways more than many folks realize.

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Extra info for A Life of H. L. A. Hart: The Nightmare and the Noble Dream

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From a wealthy and elite family (her father was one of the architects of the international legal order following the First World War), Jenifer Williams was a brilliant woman and an intriguing character. Strikingly attractive, with flaming golden-red hair and an uncompromisingly straightforward manner, she had been an active communist in the 1930s, and lived an experimental, Bloomsbury-inspired personal life. By the time of her marriage to Hart she was a civil servant in the Home Office, one of a handful of women to have passed the civil service exams during the previous decade.

This ‘living with someone’ aspect of biography means that, for most biographers, it is hard to work on an unsympathetic subject. But, as in any cohabitation, a relationship can develop in unexpected ways. Since few of Herbert Hart’s personal papers were in the public domain when I started work, I had little idea what I would feel about my subject by the end of the process. I was fortunate in having access to rich resources—fascinating letters and diaries, articulate and sensitive interviewees—and as a result I certainly ‘know’ Herbert Hart better now than I did when he died in 1992.

He claims our interest, therefore, not only as the man who devised ‘a town-planning scheme’ for the ‘intellectual slum of English jurisprudence’, but as a man whose ideas are of continuing influence and relevance today.

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