A history of the West: 1 The ancient West; 2 The medieval world; 3 The West awakes; 4 Revolutions in the West; 5 Twentieth century West
Parallel Trials; The German Nexus: The Germans in English History; The English Difference? – The Tablets of their Laws; Terror and the Police State: Punishment as a Measure of Despair; A tale of two nations – Uncle Sam from Down Under; Looking down the Well: Papers on Legal History; Some History Papers: Essays on Modern History in England and Europe; Listening to Historians: What is Truth?
Windows on Shakespeare; Some literary Papers: Tilting at Windmills; Top Shelf, or What used to be called a Liberal Education.
The Humility of Knowledge: Five Geniuses and God; Different Minds: Why are English and European Lawyers so Different?
Confessions of a babyboomer; Confessions of a barrister; Summers at Oxford and Cambridge; Up your North
In print (5)
The Journalist’s Companion to Australian Law; The Arbitrator’s Companion; Law for Directors; The Making of a Lawyer; The Common Law – A History
The Ancient West
The general history of ancient Greece and Rome is traced separately and then their contribution to the West is looked at under the headings Gods, Rulers, Thinkers, Writers, Artists and Historians. This is the first in a five volume History of the West that is published at the same time. One theme recurs – in what sense was either ancient Greece or Rome civilised? 66,000 words, fully annotated, with chronology.
The Medieval West
The book covers about 1000 years from the fall of Rome to the Renaissance under the headings the Spectres of Dante and the Pilgrims of Chaucer; Mohammed and Charlemagne; Saint Augustine and Saint Aquinas; Serfs and Peasants; Lords and Vassals; Soldiers and Priests; Knights and Lords; Kings and Popes; Crusaders and Charlatans; and Lawyers and Judges. It is the second volume of A History of the West. 45,000 words fully annotated.
The West Awakes
This book deals with three phases of the history of the West (now including the U S) known as the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Enlightenment. The rebirth commenced largely in Florence. It was followed by what was traditionally called the High Renaissance centred in Rome. The spiritual Reformation exploded hotly in Germany. It was followed by a very cold version in Geneva. Typically, the English went their own perverse non-European way. There the reformation had almost nothing to do with religion, and everything to do with politics. History has not paid enough attention to the impact of this attainment of religious Home Rule on the later revolutions in England.
Volume 4 of A History of the West goes beyond the Renaissance to the Enlightenment. The German philosopher, Kant, said that enlightenment is our emergence from our self-incurred immaturity. The Enlightenment is the name given to the period following the events under the umbrella of renaissance and reformation when thinkers and artists focussed more on man than gods, and the quest for freedom became doctrinaire. The book also looks at German classical music and the birth of the U S.
The book follows all these themes through the life stories of the main players. It is 65,000 words, and fully annotated.
Revolutions in the West
Five revolutions made the modern West. The English have an unchallenged genius for deniable, incremental change, in a constitution which they built up over a thousand years or so, but even they had two authentic revolutions, one in 1641 and one in 1689, and they had a gruesome civil war in between. Additionally, we shall look at the American War of Independence (starting in 1776), the French Revolution (starting in 1789) and the Russian Revolution (starting in 1917).
The recurring theme is the willingness of those who get into a club to slam the door in the faces of those coming after them. People who think that the glimmer called the Arab Spring can be dealt with inside, say, five generations may wish to reflect on the English experience, or the Russian, or even the agony of France for the century after 1789, or the guilt of the United States before it was purged by its Civil War.
This book first looks at the old regimes before each revolution, the crises in those regimes, and then looks separately at the five overthrows. The book looks in detail at the terror in two of them, and draws conclusions about revolutions elsewhere. Volume 4 of A History of the West is 74,000 words fully annotated.
Twentieth Century West
We will now look at the completion of the industrial revolution and the current onset of the technological revolution (which is destroying minds, manners, and jobs); the horror of peoples’ wars and nuclear weapons; a world depression and the threat of a recurrence of economic collapse; the popular sterility of modernism in the arts apart from jazz; the claimed death of God, and the complete absence of any alternative, and the humiliation of a world church; the rise of professional sport as a business and as the new opium of the masses; the appalling moral collapse of three entirely ‘civilized’ nations (Italy, Germany, and Spain); the depravity of three of the most evil people in history (Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler – Mao is outside our field); the way that Einstein and computers can leave us feeling powerless in a world that we now have to take on trust; wins and losses on racism; the challenges of what will be the dominant religion, Islam, the faith of the East, and what will be the strongest economic power, China; the mediocrity and possible seizing up of democracy; the extinction of the aristocracy, and the movement of wealth from land to capital; the growing divide between rich and poor; and what some see as the closing of the western mind, the emptiness of its art, and the failure of its pillars and institutions.
We shall look at these questions while looking at the lives of Kaiser Wilhelm, Henrik Ibsen, Henry Ford, Lloyd George, Edith Cavell, Albert Einstein, James Joyce, John Maynard Keynes, Sigmund Freud, Joseph Stalin, Louis Armstrong, Francisco Franco, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Pablo Picasso, Charles de Gaulle, Harry Truman, Walt Disney, Elvis Presley, John Kennedy, Maria Callas, Muhammad Ali, Margaret Thatcher, Silvio Berlusconi, Bill Gates, and Angela Merkel. The American weighting is not surprising in what we now call the American century. We shall additionally look separately at the following issues: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich; Two Economic Crashes; The Rule of Law and Racism; The Technological Revolution; Annihilation; and, The Death of God, Sport, and Manners?
This is volume 5 in A History of the West. The book is 95,000 words. It is fully annotated.
This book considers the two most raked over trials in history. It looks at them in tandem under the following headings: Sources; Powers; Laws; Accused; Teachings; Accusers; Courts; Charges; Prosecutions; Defences; Verdicts; Reactions; Conclusions; History; Responsibility.
No book has analysed either trial in such a way. In order to keep some kind of narrative going for both trials, some of the more controversial issues in the trial of Jesus are looked at in detail in Appendices. They set out the relevant terms of one of the gospels and give some comments on the difficulties that flow from them, and raise questions like: Was it blasphemy for Jesus to claim to be the son of God? Could the Sanhedrin have enforced a death sentence? Can we say what actually happened?
The evidence for the ‘trial’ of Jesus is very thin. It looks like there was a Jewish charge of blasphemy and a Roman charge and finding of sedition: There was evidence of the first but not the second. What is clear is that the accused offered no defence to any charge against him. What is less well recognised is that Socrates in substance offered no defence either. As a defence to either charge against Socrates, the Apology is demonstrably fallacious in logic. Socrates then invited the death penalty by his submission on penalty.
The book aims to be an independent analysis of the evidence and law and the procedure for each trial by a practising lawyer who does not profess any relevant faith. The final appendix gives extracts from books of two distinguished judges on either side – Christian and Jewish – which accounts are obviously disfigured by bias.
The work is fully annotated. It is about 71,000 words
The German Nexus
This book of 27,000 words has three essays on the impact of Germany on England. The Anglo-Saxons were the first English, coming from Germany with the seeds of the language and kingship, and the glimmer of individualism. Two Germans did not take root in England, although their influence was very great elsewhere – the second essay looks at why Luther and Kant had no impact and the great difference in thinking in the two countries. The third traces the history of the current royal house which came from Germany. The three essays, which are fully annotated, look at themes I have looked at in detail elsewhere. It is deliberately idiosyncratic.
The English Difference? The Tablets of their Laws
Why are the English so different to and difficult for Europe? This is a history of the English constitutional story from Anglo-Saxon times to now for the general public or for lawyers. Germans (410-1066) deals with Anglo-Saxon kings and dooms up to the Conquest. The English did not, like the rest of Europe, accept Roman law. Barons (to 1399) covers Magna Carta, on which most subsequent English legal history is just a commentary, and the birth of Parliament and a legal profession. Protestants (to 1603) sees English Home Rule, which legal historians underrate, and the rise of Parliament and the judges. Gentry (to 1776) shows a century of conflict where the Stuart kings faced king-breakers from hell like Cromwell, leading to the Bill of Rights, which the Americans sent back as the Declaration of Independence. Shopkeepers (to 1911) sees parliamentary party democracy as we know it after the crisis of the People’s Budget of Lloyd George and Winston Churchill. Women (to 2014) covers universal suffrage, the accession of women and workers, and the current development of the rule of law. Reference throughout is made to the present, and to comparable events in Europe and the U S. The author is not British, but he has written extensively on the history of law and ideas. The book of 48,000 words is fully annotated.
Terror and the Police State: Punishment as a Measure of Despair
This book looks at terror and terrorism, and its cause or effect, the police state. It is a proper subject of study now. This book therefore looks at a comparison of the role played by terror in France, Russia, and Germany, during the periods referred to. After setting the scene, the book proceeds under these headings: enduring emergency; righteousness; good bye to the law; the instruments of terror; waves of terror; degradation; secret police; surveillance; denunciation; fear; popular courts and show trials; scapegoats, suspicion, and proof; gulags; propaganda, religion, and cults; the numbers; and the horror. The book concludes by trying to describe common threads in the three regimes, and with something like a plea for Robespierre.
The book does not deal with the Holocaust. I have enough on my plate already – sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof – but it may help in trying to understand that moral landslide to see the extent to which it might be related to the evils that are discussed in this book, which I now commend to you, my reader.
The book is 113,000 words and fully annotated.
A Tale of Two Nations: Uncle Sam from Down Under
This book plots in outline the histories of the US and Australia. This is not a potted history of either, but a collection of snapshots of each taken side by side as these nations negotiated some of the principal stepping stones in their progress across the stream of history. I have the pious hope that the selection of the subject matter of the snapshots may be uncontroversial if not prosaic, leaving discussion only for the inferences to be drawn and comments that might be made, but experience suggests that such a hope is likely to be illusory and hardly pious.
Both America and Australia started out as refuges for boat people, two terms of abuse now in some quarters, but although they share an original common ancestor, their stories are very different. How, and why, is this the case?
I should disclose my sources of prejudice. I am an Australian white male, middle class professional, who is much closer to death than birth. I have no political affiliation, but I have a mistrust of government in general, and politicians and their parties in particular. My perfect government is one that has as little to do with me as is decently possible – especially the part that hands out speeding tickets. I have made a handsome living from a profession that we in this country derive from England. I have an unlimited sense of admiration for the contribution that England has made to the civilization of the West and to the history and character of both America and Australia, and an almost equally unlimited frustration at the inability of my nation to cut what I see as the apron strings tying Australia to England, and to stand on its own two feet. A dark cloud hangs over my descent into the dust – that I shall leave this earth before my country gets what I regard as its independence.
I have no belief in a personal God, but I believe that the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount are a little like cutlery – they are what distinguish us from the gorillas. As the white people took America and Australia, they committed crimes against the native peoples of those lands in ways that violated every part of the great religious laws that I have mentioned, but in common with most other people, I have no real idea of what to do about those wrongs now.
Doubtless other of my prejudices will become apparent to you as you go through this book, which I hope that you will enjoy.
The book is 100,000 words and fully annotated.
Looking down the Well: Papers on Legal History
The book has 18 essays or notes on the legal and constitutional history of England that underpins all common law countries. The essays are annotated. The book is 95,000 words.
A great English judge, Lord Devlin, said that the ‘English jury is not what it is because some lawgiver so decreed, but because that is the way it has grown up’. That is so true of almost every part of our law. Our law is its history. This is why anyone claiming to be a real lawyer, and not just a bean-counter or meter-watcher, needs to get hand to hand with our legal history. It is a rollicking story going for more than a thousand years of a people with a genius for law-making while pretending that they were doing no such thing. It is the story of how the world got its only workable way of protecting people against bullies and each other – whether in the form of government or at large.
That which took a millennium to construct could be washed down the drain in a generation. We have already trashed two vital parts of our governance – responsible government, and an independent civil service – and we have been scandalously weak in standing up for juries. These failings come in large part because we have chosen to forget and then betray our heritage. Sadly, I see no prospect of that decline being reversed.
Some History Papers: Essays on Modern History in England and Europe
These papers were written between 2008 and 2015. They relate to what we call the modern history of Europe and Britain. Some were written in or as a result of Summer Schools at Cambridge and Oxford. For example, the two pieces under the heading Foretelling Armageddon were first written as course notes at Clare College Cambridge, and now can be found in the fifth volume of A History of the West.
Five of the essays deal with the two big questions that have followed me for fifty years – how did France and Germany, two of the most civilised nations on earth, succumb to their total moral collapses, and with such frightful consequences for the rest of the world? If you are being raped or killed by a soldier, do you care about the motives of those who sent him.
Three of the pieces deal with issues in Stuart England, and all come from Summer Schools. My notes on Cromwell come from a remarkable weekender at Cambridge taught by Dr David Smith; those on the Stuart parliaments come from a week at Oxford taught by Dr Andrew Lacey. The story of the Treaty of Dover should be told in a play or film.
There is a long look at the very flawed views on the Atom Bomb of A C Grayling, who might just be too busy to be able to indulge in scholarship, and a piece on the great story of Lloyd George and Winston Churchill on the People’s Budget – at a time when politics had real leaders. The piece on witchhunts is the oldest, but the bullying of the majority is still just as threatening.
These are contributions by a lawyer and a legal historian whose professional training teaches him to proceed by example, and to look at what goes on elsewhere. I hope that you enjoy them.
128,000 words. The major essays are annotated.
Listening to Historians: What is truth?To write history is to tell a story. The better the story, the better the history. There are two parts to telling a story – stating what happened; and choosing how you will describe those events. If you tell the story well, the reader will hardly notice the distinction.
The rise of the professional historian has moved the focus to what happened from how those events are described – the focus is on evidence, rather than style. The writers, or historians, have brought this change on. The readers do not like it. They like their stories to be well told. They want to listen to the stories. For that they want to read good writing.
This book is loaded with good writing – not by me, but by some of the best writers in the West. There is a good spread in time and place – five British (Gibbon, Carlyle, Macaulay, Maitland, and Namier), three French (Michelet, Taine, and Bloch), two Germans (Ranke and Mommsen), one Dutchman (Geyl), one Greek (Thucydides), one Italian (Tacitus), these last two being ancient, and one Swiss (Burkhardt).
The book concludes by considering truth in history and meaning in art.
Historians are fond of talking about what history is. They might better ask why people read it. Do people read history so that they might know more or be better informed about the past? Do they read it to gain insight into and some connexion with other people? Or do they read it just for pleasure? Do they read to listen?
The book is 55,000 words and is fully annotated.
Windows on Shakespeare
This book is an introduction to the world of Shakespeare. Chapter I is headed ‘A Writer in Time and Space’ and puts Elizabethan England in its context in the evolution of western theatre starting with Greece, and looks at Elizabethan education and theatre, and tells all that we know of the life of Shakespeare (which isn’t much). Chapter 2 contains a note on each of the thirty-eight plays (averaging about 2000 words on each play, but loaded heavily in favour of the most played and celebrated pieces.) Chapter 3 offers an overview of the plays in groups – Problem, Romance, History, Classical, Comedies, and Tragedies. Chapter 4 gives a commentary on the ranges of recordings available, and includes a catalogue of recordings on cassette, CD and DVD. Chapter 5 looks at the greatest players of Shakespeare on stage and screen. Chapter 6 looks at the main streams of literary criticism from time to time. Chapter 7 concludes with general observations on this genius and his continuing presence in our life. There are no footnotes, but references are given at the end of each chapter, or note on a play (in chapter 2). The book is about 98,000 words. No other handbook of Shakespeare is structured like it.
Some Literary Papers: Tilting at Windmills
These essays and notes come from the last five years or so. They come from a lawyer and they do not claim to be works of scholarship. I have written elsewhere about Shakespeare, great writing in history, and our great novels. About half of the present pieces relate to Shakespeare, some in an anecdotal manner, although the grip of the Big Four goes on. Most of these have been published by the Melbourne Shakespeare Society. The other pieces relate to other kinds of writing, from cooking to crime, but with a few on novels. The two substantive essays deal with great peaks in our literature – the role of Achilles and Satan in our two greatest epics, and our two greatest characters, Falstaff and Don Quixote. If you said that the whole book was Quixotic, I would be happy.
82,000 words. Some essays are annotated.
Top Shelf, or What used to be Called a Liberal Education
A survey of the best fifty writers or books selected by the author in literature, drama, poetry, history, philosophy, religion, science, films, cooking, and sport. A description of every book is given – it is either leather bound at least in part or slip-cased. They sit above the fireplace as life companions of the author. This book of 75,000 words is different from other ‘top’ or ‘best’ lists: it is sincere. If you get across this lot, you will be going bad to be called uncivilised.
The humility of knowledge: Five Geniuses and God
This book considers the relations between God and Spinoza, Hume, Kant, Gibbon and Wittgenstein. The Foreword says: ‘These five thinkers represent the flower of the Western Enlightenment or philosophy. They maintained that religious belief or faith was a no-fly zone for philosophy. That simple proposition seems obvious enough to most people. You do not get to the bottom of God by using logic any more than you get to the bottom of Michelangelo, Mozart, or Melbourne Storm by using logic. But here is this simple proposition being laid down as a matter of logic by the biggest hitters that philosophy has known. That leaves two questions. On what grounds do some philosophers – not noticeably the most humble or tolerant of them – say that they can dictate to others what they should or should not believe about God? If philosophers succeed in abolishing God, what, apart from that abolition, will philosophy have to show for itself for the two thousand years’ efforts since Aristotle?’
The issue is discussed sequentially for the five thinkers under the headings Times, Lives, Teachings, Reactions, and Beliefs. There are three general chapters and a chapter ‘Other Geniuses and God’: Milton, Newton, Bach, Mozart, Goethe, Darwin, Tolstoy, Holmes, Yeats and Einstein. Most of the subjects have a generosity of mind and spirit that is sufficient to put intolerant and dogmatic God abolishers in the shade.
There are no footnotes, but the book is fully annotated. It is about 50,000 words.
Different minds: Why are English and European Lawyers so Different?
By looking at the comparative legal and political histories of England, France, Germany and the U S, and at the great differences in philosophy on either side of the Channel, this book looks at the variations in the way that European lawyers think compared to Anglo-American lawyers. This book is essential for any lawyer who wants to be more than a bean counter. There are as well chapters on rights, lawyers, jurists, trials and judgments. The author has written on many of these themes elsewhere. He has practised law for more than forty years and has presided over statutory tribunals for thirty years. He has reflected on a lot of the issues raised in this book in many summer schools at Oxford and Cambridge, and one at Harvard. He has practised at the Bar and in a major international firm, and has been briefed in the U K and the U S. The book is 47,000 words and is fully annotated.
Confessions of a babyboomer
This book is an autobiographical memoir of the author. It goes through to when I turned 30. Eleven days later, Gough Whitlam, the P M, got sacked. Innocence, if not paradise, was lost. The book is meant to give a snapshot of what it was like to grow up in a very different Australia – if you were born here at the end of the War. References are made to outside political and sporting events, and to social customs and consumer habits to round out the picture. One theme is the difference between three generations. My parents, Mac and Norma, left school at about 13, and had to survive the depression and a real war; they got by with hard work and saving and a very pinched way of life, with both of them in work; they looked for their reward in the next generation rather than in a frugal retirement; they knew the value of money and saving.
My generation was not tested by a depression or a real war; we grew up in God’s country and we had everything before us – there were hardly limits to what we could achieve; we came into money, and we forgot its value and purpose. ‘We babyboomers had enjoyed our day in the sun. We had taken what was on offer when the war ended. We actually got to walk along what Churchill called the broad sunlit uplands. This was a promised land, it had been promised to us, and we had been cocooned in it.’
But the next generation looks very different – they grew up amid at least the trappings of wealth and an image of an urbane lifestyle as we sought to cast off the cringe (while clinging grimly to the Queen) and give them the best, but these children did not seem to be looking at a world of opportunity; au contraire, they were looking at threats and broken illusions. My conclusion is that my generation were ‘the luckiest bastards alive’, and I doubt whether we have done all that we could to redeem the faith that our parents put in us.
Since this is a personal memoire, there are no footnotes. This book is nearly 40,000 words.
Confessions of a barrister: Learning the Law
This is a memoire of the professional life of an Australian Babyboomer as a lawyer. The author has practised law for more than forty years as a barrister or solicitor, and has presided over one or another statutory tribunal for thirty years. Of late he has concentrated on his writing in history, literature, and philosophy. He has learned much from many summer schools at Cambridge, Harvard, and Oxford.
The author wanted to thank those other lawyers who have helped him as a lawyer, and to try to pass on to others the lessons that he has learned in practising law in various ways. The book is dedicated to the idea that the required professional skill and attitude only come from vocation and experience, and that a good life is open to those who are prepared to put in the time and effort, to acquire the judgment, and to show the loyalty and courage that membership of this profession calls for.
Aspects of the boyhood and youth of an Australian babyboomer may be seen in a companion volume, Confessions of a Babyboomer. 64,000 words.
Summers at Oxford and Cambridge and Elsewhere
A traveller’s reflection on history and philosophy- and place
Reflections on Summer Schools at Oxford and Cambridge, and visits to Scotland and Europe, and on the subjects taught, including opera, history and philosophy. There are essays on the philosophy of religion and Cromwell, but most of the writing is of contemporaneous impressions of Berlin, Paris, London and Scotland. 41,000 words.
Up your North
The Kimberley and Kakadu: A Seniors’ Guide from Broome to Darwin in 14 days by 4WD
A personal diary of a trip from Broome to Darwin in 14 days by a lawyer and writer in a 4WD with commentary on the outback and people living there and advice on how to avoid the mistakes of the author. 17,000 words. Humour is guaranteed.