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Louis D. Brandeis: A Life Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 22, 2009


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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Utterly fascinating . . . Urofsky’s remarkable book has innumerable passages that amaze . . . [It] captures the sweep and the details of that life with what has to be called devotion . . . his achievement is remarkable.”
—Anthony Lewis, The New York Review of Books
 
“A commendably exhaustive work.”
The New Yorker
 
“Melvin Urofsky’s lapidary new biography is a rich study of a remarkable life.”
The Economist


"Melvin Urofsky's comprehensive and highly readable biography of Louis Brandeis conveys the vast scope of Brandeis's fascinating life with energy, verve and immediacy. . . In Urofsky's deft hands, Brandeis comes alive in these pages as a passionate progressive who dedicated his life and career to improving the lives of others and preserving the most fundamental American values." 
—Geoffrey R. Stone, Chicago Tribune
 
"Urofsky has spent much of his professional life examining and writing about one or another aspect of this complex and multifaceted jurist. [His biography of Brandeis] represents the pinnacle of Urofsky's accumulated work. It will likely stand as the definitive Brandeis biography for many years."
—Harvey A. Silverglate, The Boston Globe
 
"[A] monumental, authoritative and appreciative biography of the man Franklin D. Roosevelt called "Isaiah" . . . [Urofsky] demonstrates, deploying a Brandeisan array of factual material, why Brandeis still matters, nearly 70 years after his death."
—Alan M. Dershowitz, New York Times Book Review
 
"A comprehensive biography of an American legal giant. . . likely to become the standard biography. . .An authoritative, impressive assessment of a man whose legal reasoning continues to influence our republic."
Kirkus Reviews (starred)
 

About the Author

Melvin I. Urofsky is professor of law and public policy and a professor emeritus of history at Virginia Commonwealth University and was the chair of its history department. He is the editor (with David W. Levy) of the five-volume collection of Louis Brandeis’s letters, as well as the author of American Zionism from Herzl to the Holocaust and Louis D. Brandeis and the Progressive Tradition. He lives in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
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This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 976 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; 1st edition (September 22, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375423664
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375423666
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 1.9 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #251,834 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Ronald H. Clark VINE VOICE on October 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This new biography of Justice Louis D. Brandeis (1856-1941) is the most extensive study we have of the Justice. It runs over 900 pages including extensive notes. Who better to undertake such a task than Professor Urofsky, who has edited 7 volumes of Brandeis letters, written several prior book-length studies of the Justice, and authored numerous articles discussing his activities. While there are a number of earlier biographies of the Justice, including the classic by Alpheus Mason ("Brandeis: A Free Man's Life" [1946]), this is by far the most extensive and thorough look we are likely to have of Brandeis and his life. The author does a nice job of balancing LDB's professional activities with his private life. Urofsky came to know the Justice's two daughters (now deceased) while working on the letters volumes with David Levy, and they shared family photographs and recollections of their father and mother with him. He also has had extensive contact with the surviving Brandeis grandchildren, as least one of whom like Urofsky is involved in the work of the Supreme Court Historical Society here in Washington.

Urofsky focuses on several topics not extensively covered in the earlier biographies. First, the Justice's wife, Alice, much as Holmes' wife and Frankfurter's spouse, suffered from period of mental exhaustion which required treatment including hospitalization on occasion, although her condition improved substantially over time. Their relationship is essential to understanding the world in which LDB lived, and Urofsky's discussion puts this situation into proper context. The second area where Urofsky departs from previous biographies is his exhaustive discussion of LDB's Zionist activities.
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36 of 42 people found the following review helpful By C. Hutton on September 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Mr. Urofsky has written an excellent and exhaustive (at nearly a thousand pages) biography of the lawyer who was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916. A progressive judge who believed in judical restraint, Louis Brandeis' legal dissents later became the basis of law and his support of a Jewish homeland later became Israel. He was born before the Civil War and died just before Pearl Harbor. The author has written a readable and understandable life of law, and of the political tides of Justice Brandeis' long life (he died at 85).
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Klaus Hansen on March 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In "Louis D. Brandeis: A Life," author Melvin Urofsky has achieved, above all, three things--a history of the life and times of an American who put an indelible mark on his country at a time of monumental political, intellectual, and social change, encompassed by the progressive era; of a liberal Jew who helped in integrating the Jewish religion and culture into the American mainstream, while at the same time playing an important role in the development of Zionism; and who as a justice on the United States Supreme court helped reshape the legal foundations of the Amerian republic to the benefit of a broader population base.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Alex J. Mili Jr. on January 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover
It is evident that Urofsky is an outstanding history professor at UCV because the chapters of this book are pedagogically arranged like a syllabus for a graduate-level seminar course. This book is lengthy and comprehensive, but easily digested and well organized. I am a big fan of David McCullough's presidential biographies (Truman, John Adams) because McCullough takes that same professorial approach to the organization and content of his writing. Urofsky is in the same league as McCullough.
Before reading this book, I knew Brandeis only for his infamous Brandeis Brief in Muller v. Oregon and his tenure on the U.S. Supreme Court. This book shows that those events were mere chapters in the extraordinary life of Brandeis. That is why I also recommend this book to anyone who may not necessarily be interested in Brandeis or the Supreme Court, but who simply enjoys the study of U.S. history.
Brandeis is the product of the Progressive Era, and this book provides a deep and scholarly understanding of that era, including some in-depth coverage of other notable Progressive Era figures, such as Robert LaFollette and Woodrow Wilson. Urofsky does not even discuss Brandeis's tenure on the Supreme Court until more than half way through the book.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Terrence McGarty on October 31, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author has written a detailed account of one of the most eminent lawyers and judges of our country, Brandeis. Brandeis was a brilliant and perceptive jurist and he was part of what is now the bases of many of what we accept as common "rights" as citizens of the United States.

The biography is long and detailed and is probably one of the best biographies on Brandeis that I have read. Rather than detail the book I want to use two episodes in Brandeis life as discussed in the book to make a few points.

First, the issue of the right to privacy. On pp 99-102 the author describes the seminal paper by Warren and Brandeis entitled "The Right to Privacy" which as the author does state is in many ways a right to be left alone, a right to anonymity. The fact is that there is no such right in the Constitution and that Warren and Brandeis, truly Brandeis alone if one understands the author, develops such "right" from well established common law principles. This was a brilliant paper and in many ways is as important today and it was over a hundred years ago. It would have been interesting for the author to detail this paper a bit more. The author returns to this topic of privacy in the discussion of the Olmstead case on pp 628-632. This was the first wiretapping case where the Court ruled that there was no need for a warrant and thus no 4th Amendment protection. Brandeis' writing on his dissent is quite telling and it should have gotten a bit more coverage by the author.
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