Brian Harris, |
It is basically about state trials from Socrates to Nuremberg, given a broad definition of "state." But more than recounting the trials -- which are always fascinating dramas -- it also give an often fresh view of the historical background behind each.
Ironically, the first trial is one that fascinated me in another book some months age. It was the trial of Charles I in 1649. Apart from the story of counsel vs. counsel, it is the nuggets of information -- like the fact that more people, proportionately, died in that civil war than in The Great War, or that there is no record of Charles ever meeting Oliver Cromwell in person -- that make this so interesting.
The trial of Roger Casement is also recounted and it reads like a James Bond story. We often forget the background to these events and the full lives led by the participants before the story we most often hear, which sticks to a few weeks or months taken from a full life.
Other trials recounted are "The Atom Spies," putting personalities on headlines; Joan of Arc, as more than cross-dressing and burning; and Galileo, who we learn was not such an anti-church advocate as a cursory study might indicate. We also hear of the trials following Lincoln's assassination that may be part of U.S. history classes but are seldom referred to in European schools.
This book is history brought to life and dramas played out in the theatre of the courtroom.
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5 March 2011
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