Scholars of the Law: English Jurisprudence from Blackstone to Hart

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NYU Press, Apr 1, 1996 - Law - 262 pages
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Law has been the missing link in modern British studies. Richard Cosgrove has begun single-handedly to change that. In unpretentious prose Cosgrove expertly guides the reader through the major works of half a dozen 'greats' as well as shrewdly assessing their current reputations. Scholars of the Law should inspire many more!
--John V. Orth, The University of North Carolina School of Law

Richard Cosgrove's Scholars of the Law begins with the emergence of the positivist belief that jurisprudence can solve the important social issues of the day. Legal theory in the twentieth century has become narrow and abstract, and contemporary theory, ever anxious to debunk elitism, ironically has become elitist itself. Charting the history of English jurisprudence through its key figures--William Blackstone, Jeremy Bentham, John Austin, Henry Maine, Thomas Erskine Holland, and H. L. A. Hart--Richard Cosgrove argues that jurisprudence must return to its interdisciplinary roots and draw upon economics, politics, and sociology. In short, theory and practice must be recombined.

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Can a discipline that has become intensely specialized tell us anything about the world we live in? Or does it render itself socially irrelevant? These questions are at the heart of Richard A. Cosgrove's history of jurisprudence in England. Cosgrove's account begins with the emergence of the positivist belief that jurisprudence can solve the truly important social issues of the day and leads us through the gradual divorce of legal theory from legal history. Legal theory in the twentieth century, argues Cosgrove, has become narrow and abstract, irrelevant to the daily practice of the law. Contemporary theory, ever anxious to debunk elitism, ironically has become elitist itself. Cosgrove outlines an escape from this trap: jurisprudence must return to its interdisciplinary roots and draw upon economics, politics, and sociology. In short, theory and practice must be recombined. 

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About the author (1996)

Richard Cosgrove is Professor of History at the University of Arizona and author of "The Rule of Law" and "Our Lady the Common Law.

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