The Supreme Court
An Essential History
Peter Charles Hoffer, Williamjames Hull Hoffer, and N. E. H. Hull
For more than two centuries, the U.S. Supreme Court has provided a battleground for nearly every controversial issue in our nation’s history. Now a veteran team of talented historians—including the editors of the acclaimed Landmark Law Cases and American Society series—have updated the most readable, astute single-volume history of this venerated institution with a new chapter on the Roberts Court.
The Supreme Court chronicles an institution that dramatically evolved from six men meeting in borrowed quarters to the most closely watched tribunal in the world. Underscoring the close connection between law and politics, the authors highlight essential issues, cases, and decisions within the context of the times in which the decisions were handed down. Deftly combining doctrine and judicial biography with case law, they demonstrate how the justices have shaped the law and how the law that the Court makes has shaped our nation, with an emphasis on how the Court responded—or failed to respond—to the plight of the underdog.
“Praise for the first edition:
This splendid interpretative summary of the history of the U.S. Supreme Court is designed for students and the general public. It is an effective textbook for American constitutional history courses and contains many insights of interest to professional historians. . . . Readers will find apt analysis and enjoyable prose in this fine book.”
—Journal of American History
“[It] may well be the best single volume history of the Court. . . . on the whole, balanced and brings together an extraordinary amount of material.”
—Political Science QuarterlySee all reviews...
“The authors, each an accomplished historian, give readers an historical and political lens through which to view the development of Supreme Court jurisprudence. At the same time, they illuminate the various ways in which this jurisprudence has shaped both the law and the larger history of the United States.”
—Law Library Journal
“This book is exactly what the title states it to be, placing the Courts noteworthy opinions within their institutional, social, and political contexts. Its treatment of a broad number of themes, including race and gender, is laudable. This book deserves a large audience, from novices seeking to acquaint themselves with the Supreme Court’s history to legal scholars who want a one-volume reference book in their libraries. The helpful bibliographical essay is as elegantly written as the main text of the book.”
—Journal of Interdisciplinary History
“It is an attractive book for those who want a comprehensive overview of the cases that shaped our constitutional development and the Court that produced them.”
—Law and Politics Book Review
“For those looking for a concise one-volume history of the Supreme Court—its major rulings, its political context, and its major justices—this is the book. Organizing their text around the terms of office of the 15 chief justices who presided over the court between 1789 and 2005, the authors masterfully weave together accounts of doctrinal developments, the political crises that engendered them, and the often larger-than-life personalities of the Court’s most significant justices. One sees U.S. history in a new light, and comes to appreciate the role of the Supreme Court in shaping that history. This is a rigorous and fair-minded account of one of America’s most important governmental institutions by a trio of distinguished historians. It is a stunning achievement, of great value to a wide range of readers. Essential.”
“A clear and comprehensive overview of the nation’s most important court and the justices who have served on it. . . . Essential reading for anyone concerned with the history of this fascinating institution.”
—Lawrence Friedman, author of A History of American Law
“The single most readable and reliable narrative history of the U.S. Supreme Court yet written.”
—Stanley N. Katz, editor of the Encyclopedia of Legal History
“A refreshingly case-oriented survey of the Court’s work, with lively vignettes of the individual justices.”
—William M. Wiecek, author of Liberty under Law: The Supreme Court in American Life
“Indispensable for the layperson and a rich banquet for the scholar as well.”
—Laura Kalman, author of The Strange Career of Legal LiberalismSee fewer reviews...
Each chapter covers the Court’s years under a specific Chief Justice, focusing on cases that are the most reflective of the way the Court saw the law and the world and that had the most impact on the lives of ordinary Americans. Throughout the authors reveal how—in times of war, class strife, or moral revolution—the Court sometimes voiced the conscience of the nation and sometimes seemed to lose its moral compass. Their extensive quotes from the Court’s opinions and dissents illuminate its inner workings, as well as the personalities and beliefs of the justices and the often-contentious relationships among them.
Fair-minded and sharply insightful, The Supreme Court portrays an institution defined by eloquent and pedestrian decisions and by justices ranging from brilliant and wise to slow-witted and expedient. An epic and essential story, it illuminates the Court’s role in our lives and its place in our history in a manner as engaging for general readers as it is rigorous for scholars.