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The Fundamental Holmes


  • 1 b/w illus.
  • Page extent: 434 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.7 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 342.7308/5
  • Dewey version: 22
  • LC Classification: KF213.H6 C65 2010
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Holmes, Oliver Wendell,--Jr.,--1841-1935
    • Law--United States
    • Freedom of expression--United States

Library of Congress Record

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 (ISBN-13: 9780521194600)

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$120.00 (P)

No figure stands taller in the world of First Amendment law than Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. This is the first anthology of Justice Holmes’s writings, speeches, and opinions concerning freedom of expression. Prepared by a noted free speech scholar, the book contains eight original essays designed to situate Holmes’s works in historical and biographical context. The volume is enriched by extensive commentaries concerning its many entries, which consist of letters, speeches, book excerpts, articles, state court opinions, and U.S. Supreme Court opinions. The edited materials – spanning Holmes’s 1861–1864 service in the Civil War to his 1931 radio address to the nation – offer a unique view of the thoughts of the father of the modern First Amendment. The book’s epilogue, which includes a major discovery about Holmes’s impact on American statutory law, explores Holmes’s free speech legacy. In the process, the reader comes to know Holmes and his jurisprudence of free speech as never before.


1. On life and war; 2. General conceptions - the early writings; 3. The state court years - fettered freedom; 4. Supreme Court opinions - the early years; 5. Supreme Court opinions - 'while a nation is at war'; 6. Supreme Court opinions - experimenting with freedom; 7. Legacy - the long shadow.


Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., one of the greatest legal minds in American history, revised many of his own views while playing a pivotal role in transforming the American law of free speech from a restrictive to a protective tradition. Beyond collecting for the first time an impressive array of sources by and about Holmes that relate to his thinking about free speech, Collins has added his own incisive commentary. This comprehensive volume is a major contribution to scholarship on Holmes and the First Amendment.
David Rabban
Dahr Jamail, Randall Hage Jamail and Robert Lee Jamail Regents Chair
University Distinguished Teaching Professor
University of Texas School of Law

In this remarkable volume, First Amendment scholar Ronald Collins traces the extraordinary evolution of Holmes's thinking -- in his own words -- on free speech over a seventy-year span of his life. With the guidance provided by Collins's insightful introductions to each chapter, the reader is swept along in the intellectual journey that ultimately made Holmes the most important advocate of free speech in American history. With this book, Holmes's Phoenix rises yet again.
Geoffrey R. Stone , Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor
The University of Chicago School of Law

Holmes’s most famous concrete contribution to American law came in the eloquent and ultimately successful advocacy of heightened judicial protection for free expression that he launched near the end of his life in his Abrams and Gitlow dissents. In this book, Ron Collins has done a great service by going carefully and thoughtfully through the whole of Holmes’s life and career with a constant eye on that late First Amendment contribution, assembling a remarkable range of relevant Holmesiana, and surrounding it with judiciously selected scholarly commentary.
Thomas Grey, Sweitzer Professor Emeritus, Stanford Law School

The Fundamental Holmes is an absolutely indispensable anthology enriched by eight illuminating and well written essays. Ron Collins masterfully brings the real Holmes to life – good, bad, liberal, conservative, hero, and villain. The work is wise, passionate, engaging, reflective, and altogether enjoyable.
Steven Shiffrin, Charles Frank Reavis, Sr., Professor of Law, Cornell University

"This thoughtful and stimulating book reminds us how often judicial rulings are the product more of emotion than of close reasoning."
Louis Fisher, The Federal Lawyer

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