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Roscoe Pound and Karl Llewellyn: Searching For An American Jurisprudence

In Roscoe Pound and Karl Llewellyn: Searching for an American Jurisprudence, N. E. H. Hull reconstructs the historical, cultural, and intellectual context of the work of Pound and Llewellyn, bringing to light their private and public relationship as well as the diverse sources -- from psychology to plant ecology to Icelandic sagas -- they separately drew upon in making their contributions to the American Legal tradition. Spanning nearly one hundred years, from the post-Civil War period to the middle of the twentieth century, Hull’s account demonstrates how this era of America’s maturation challenged legal thinkers to fashion a jurisprudence to fit the new nation. The two men could not have been more different: Llewellyn, considered the father of legal realism, was a poet and mercurial romantic, while Pound, the leader of sociological jurisprudence, was an iron-willed but gentle pedant. They found common ground, however, in their search for an overarching principle that governed American legal thinking. Incorporating and discarding bits and pieces from other disciplines and different systems of law, Pound and Llewellyn made strategic use of the public discourse of articles, speeches, and books and depended heavily as well on private networks to shape their respective conceptions of the law. Roscoe Pound and Karl Llewellyn brilliantly recovers their work -- and American jurisprudence more generally -- as a kind of intellectual bricolage, the pragmatic assemblage of parts rather than the development of a unified whole, that was practiced in the web of professional and intellectual relationships. Drawn from a variety of sources, including archival records, correspondence, and lecture notes, the story of Pound’s and Llewellyn’s quest -- reaching from China to Nebraska and encompassing major events of the twentieth century -- is at the same time rich intellectual biography and cultural history, which Hull recreates with the same energy, passion, and humor that her subjects brought to the law.

"This book is fascinating from beginning to end; I could not put it down. N.E.H. Hull has done heroic labor in scattered archival sources to produce this work, which is full of fresh insights on these giants of twentieth-century American law, especially on their more private sides, the personal institutional, and political engagements that their published work does not reveal. Her stories, for example, of Pound’s and Llewellyn’s involvements with the Sacco-Vanzetti case, of the Pound-Llewellyn debate over legal realism, of Pound’s entanglement with the China Lobby, and of how Llewellyn carried out his fieldwork among the Cheyenne are completely new and make one significantly revise one’s impressions of these men. Hull does a wonderful job showing how strikingly similar the two men were intellectually and how totally different in temperament; and no one has ever explained more convincingly than she the strange mixture of reformist iconoclasm and conservative caution in Pound’s makeup. The book will be indispensable for anyone who wants to understand the human, institutional, and political context of modern jurisprudence."

Robert W. Gordon, editor of The Legacy of Oliver Wendell Homes, Jr.

"Quite simply, this is an extraordinary piece of work that revises our understanding of the history of American legal thought. Roscoe Pound and Karl Llewellyn is not only an original piece of scholarship that makes important contributions to American intellectual history, it is also engaging, humorous, and provocative. It is a wonderful book that will cause a great deal of excitement and some controversy."
-- Laura Kalman, author of The Strange Career of Legal Liberalism