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A Life of H. L. A. Hart

Herbert Lionel Adolphus Hart was born in Yorkshire in 1907 to second generation Jewish immigrants. Having won a scholarship to Oxford University, he went on to become the most famous legal philosopher of the twentieth century. From 1932-40, H.L.A Hart practised as a barrister in London. He was pronounced physically unfit for military service in 1940, and was recruited by MI5, where he worked until 1945. During his time at the Bar, he had continued to study philosophy and at M15 his interest was further stimulated by his philosopher colleagues in M16, Stuart Hampshire and Gilbert Ryle. After the war, Hart returned to Oxford to take up a philosophy fellowship, later to become Professor of Jurisprudence. H.L.A Hart single-handedly reinvented the philosophy of law and influenced the nation's thinking in the 1960s on abortion, the legalization of homosexuality, and on capital punishment. Hart's approach to legal philosophy was at once disarmingly simple and breathtakingly ambitious, combining as it did the insights of Austin and Bentham and the new linguistic philosophy of J.L. Austin and Ludwig Wittgenstein. He sought to elucidate a concept of law which would be of relevance to all forms of law, wherever or whenever they arose: his best selling book, "The Concept of Law", has sold tens of thousands of copies worldwide. In 1941, he married Jenifer Williams (a high-ranking civil servant, later an Oxford academic) with whom he had four children. Their relationship was an enduring, if unconventional one. In the early 1950s, Jenifer was rumoured to be having a long-standing affair with Isaiah Berlin, one of Hart's closest friends. She was also, falsely, accused by the "Sunday Times" of having been a Russian spy, an allegation which was all the more scandalous, given Hart's position at MI5 during the War. Nicola Lacey draws on Hart's previously unpublished diaries and letters to reveal a complex inner life. Outwardly successful, Hart was in fact tormented by doubts about his intellectual abilities, his sexual identity and his capacity to form close relationships. Her biography also sheds fascinating light on the origins of his ideas, and assesses his overall contribution. Above all, it chronicles a life, which had a depth and impact far greater than many of Hart's readers have realized.
Product Details

Table of Contents

List of illustrations ; Acknowledgments ; Biographer's Note on Approach and Sources ; Introduction: An Outsider on the Inside ; PART I: NORTH AND SOUTH ; 1: Harrogate, Cheltenham, Bradford ; 2: An Oxford Scholar ; 3: Success Snatched from Defeat: London and the Bar ; PART II: CHANGE AND CONTINUITY ; 4: Jenifer ; 5: From the Inns of Court to Military Intelligence: MI5, Marriage, and Fatherhood ; 6: Oxford from the Other Side of the Fence ; PART III: THE GOLDEN AGE ; 7: Selling Philosophy to the Lawyers: The Chair of Jurisprudence ; 8: American Jurisprudence through English Eyes: Harvard 1956-7 ; 9: Law in the Perspective of Philosophy: Causation in Law, The Concept of Law ; 10: West and East, California and Israel: Law, Liberty, and Morality; Kelsen Visited; The Morality of the Criminal Law ; 11: Discipline, Punishment, and Responsibility ; PART IV: AFTER THE CHAIR ; 12: Old Turks and Young Fogeys: Bentham and Brasenose ; 13: The Nightmare and the Noble Dream ; Notes ; Bibliography: HLA Hart ; Bibliography: Other authors ; List of Interviewees ; Biographical details on figures appearing in the book


About the Author

Nicola Lacey is Professor of Criminal Law, at the London School of Economics, and Adjunct Professor of Social and Political Theory, at the Research School of Social Sciences of the Australian National University.


Outstanding biography. He deserves a perceptive biography, and Nicola LAcey has proided one. TLS For me, a biography addict, this is certainly the biography of 2004 Baroness Warnock, The Times Higher Education Supplement impressive new biography Noel Malcolm, The Sunday Telegraph Review This is a stunning achievement. Nicola Lacey has thrown a wonderful light, not only on H.L.A. Hart, the man his life, his marriage, his war-work, his sexuality, his self-doubt, his experience of anti-Semitism but also on the Oxford of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, and by extension the circle of friends in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in New York, in Jerusalem, and all over the world in whose company he developed his ideas and made his massive contribution to jurisprudence. Jeremy Waldron, Maurice and Hilda Friedman Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Law and Philosophy, Columbia University The fascinating biography of a complex and brilliant man. Lacey's account vividly recreates the postwar Oxford climate in philosophy and jurisprudence, and paints Hart's life inside and outside the university with sensitivity, wit, and authority. Simon Blackburn, Professor of Philosophy, University of Cambridge

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