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Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime: From the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism Paperback – October 17, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-0393327458 ISBN-10: 0393327450 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 800 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton; 1 edition (October 17, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393327450
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393327458
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #40,141 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

A compelling account…Perilous Times tells a story every American should know, and tells it well. (Eric Foner, The Nation -- REview

Completely absorbing. -- Christopher Hitchens, The New York Times Book Review

Great, dramatic, and absorbing legal history at its best—beautifully written, highly accessible, and critically important for our time. -- Jonathan Cole

It's hard to think of a scholarly study timelier than Stone's new book…an important, indeed necessary book on freedom indispensable. -- Michiko Kakatani, The New York Times

Rarely has a work been more timely….must reading for every citizen interested in something called the First Amendment. -- Studs Terkel

Stone is a constitutional scholar and a zealous defender of free speech, but he is also a great storyteller. -- Jonathan Karl, The Wall Street Journal

Stone's book will serve as an invaluable guide as we watch the actions of the government in the coming years. -- Michael Riccardi, Legal Intelligence, Philadelphia

The most important book of its kind since Zechariah Chaffee, Jr. first published his heralded Freedom of Speech in 1920. -- Ron Collins, Resident Scholar, Freedom Forum

We have long needed this book, though perhaps never as badly as we do today. -- Christopher Capozzola, Washington Post

[Stone] has written, with knowing passion, a cautionary tale for our times. -- Herbert Mitgang, Los Angeles Times

About the Author

Geoffrey R. Stone, the Harry Kalven, Jr. Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago Law School, was dean of the law school from 1987 to 1993. He lives in Chicago, Illinois.

Customer Reviews

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For teachers - I highly recommend this book!
Katherine Metze
Lincoln was the precedent setter for unconstitutionally suspending the writ of habeas corpus, and found a follower to his dubious doctrines in George W. Bush.
R. Setliff
The author does a great job of simplifying all of the topics to make them very easy to understand.
William A. Blackwell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Bruce J. Wasser on March 9, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Throughout Geoffrey Stone's engrossing examination of free speech during times of war, two crucial conclusions emerge. Both drive from an explanation articulated by Justice Louis in 1927: "fear breeds repression" and "courage is the secret of liberty." Exquisitely researched, gracefully written and forcefully argued, "Perilous Times" is a compelling exploration of the First Amendment in wartime. Professor Stone, through argument and anecdotal evidence, develops a convincing thesis that the American people, hesitatingly and often with frustrating slowness, have embraced not only the right, but the need, to honor dissent during times of national emergency. This is a hard-earned victory for free speech, one gained only through the raw and open courage of dissidents and the often underestimated and unseen courage of jurists who stood for principle when it mattered most. "Perilous Times" is an unusual historical analysis; its scholarship is meticulous, making it an academician's treasure, and its narrative drive is irresistible, welcoming a large audience to its research and understandings.

Wartime political dissent invariably brings charges of disloyalty and suspicions of motivation. Stone chronologically analyzes six periods of the condition of free speech during times of war; from the nation's first attempts to thwart free speech during the "half war" with France in the late 1790s to its coming of age in respect for the First Amendment in the Vietnam War era, those in power have had an uneven approach to the First Amendment. Within a decade of writing the First Amendment, a repressive congress passed the nefarious Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, blatant contradictions to the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Ricky Hunter on October 25, 2005
Format: Paperback
Perilous Times is a fascinating account, by Geoffrey R. Stone, of free speech in wartime, that is oddly both often a little frightening and quite hopeful. The six periods on which the author focuses are the sedition act of 1798, the Civil War, the two World Wars, the Cold War, and the Vietnam War. Three of these periods show a carlessness with the First Amendment (1798, World War I, and the Cold War) on the part of national leaders that is balanced with a less hysterical reaction in the other three wartime periods. The author is brilliant in analyzing why this is so and he tells a fascinating story of a progressive, though never inevitable or strictly linear, development of the importance of a free press and a free discourse of ideas, even (perhaps particularly) during times of national crisis. A brilliant, important, truly fascinating tale.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By César González Rouco on March 22, 2009
Format: Paperback
There are already several good reviews on this book, so I will only suggest reading the following books (dealing with USA constitutional and political ideas) in addition to Stone's:

1) "Constitutional History of the American Revolution" by John Phillip Reid;

2) "America's Constitution: A Biography" by Akhil Reed Amar;

3) "Liberty's Blueprint: How Madison and Hamilton Wrote The Federalist, Defined the Constitution, and Made Democracy Safe for the World" by Michael Meyerson; and

4) "Lincoln's Constitution" by Daniel A. Farber.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Katherine Metze on May 5, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In most college courses, you are given a textbook which is written in the typical format that is very bland and never exciting. This book summarizes those textbooks in a wonderfully written way. It is almost as if you are reading a novel. For teachers - I highly recommend this book! It was my favorite all semester because it was exciting and easy to follow. If you are not the best history buff, like myself, Mr. Stone summarizes very briefly in an easy to comprehend way what background knowledge is important to understand or be thinking of before he dives into the speech during wartime.

Highly recommend. 4 stars. Great read for a college course where we get tired of the same boring monotone monologues of the typical wartime stories.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By William A. Blackwell on April 25, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the most entertaining and thoughtful book that we used this year. The author does a great job of simplifying all of the topics to make them very easy to understand. Reads somewhat like a novel than a "textbook." Its really good. You should read it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By not me VINE VOICE on July 3, 2011
Format: Paperback
"Perilous Times" is a great book about the fate of free speech during six American wars: the Quasi-War with France, the Civil War, World Wars I and II, the Cold War (really the McCarthy period), and the Vietnam War. The book reveals a dismal pattern: Wartime sets off a wave of fear. The public lashes out at "subversives" and "traitors" who supposedly threaten the war effort. Politicians pour gas on the fire and pass repressive laws to impress voters. Judges are not immune to the popular feeling and defer to the executive branch on questions of national security.

The response is always an overreaction and never justified by the real security risks. The witch hunts are not directed against enemy agents but against unpopular groups such as political radicals and ethnic minorities. Serious injustices are committed. Socialists and pacifists are locked up. Japanese-Americans are sent to concentration camps. New Deal bureaucrats are pilloried by loyalty boards. But once the emergency passes, the public and the judiciary sheepishly realize that many innocent people were wronged. They resolve to do better next time. As a result, Constitutional barriers to repression are erected, and the culture of free speech is strengthened.

That's the thesis anyway. Readers should read "Perilous Times" to see if they buy it. I'm not sure that I do. It's not clear to me, for example, that the substitution of FBI dirty tricks for open political repression during the Vietnam War was a sign of progress. And the public indifference to NSA eavesdropping and CIA torture in the War on Terror is evidence that many Americans still attach little value to human rights. But no matter what conclusion readers reach, they won't be disappointed by the book. It is well-written, exhaustively researched, and filled with nuanced legal analysis and vivid political history. It's long at almost 560 pages of text but I loved every page of it.
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