Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.: Civil War Soldier, Supreme Court Justice, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Civil War Soldier, Supreme Court Justice, 1st Edition

By Susan-Mary Grant


216 pages

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Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., was one of the most influential jurists of his time. From the antebellum era and the Civil War through the First World War and into the New Deal years, Holmes' long life and career as a Supreme Court Justice spanned an eventful period of American history, as the country went from an agrarian republic to an industrialized world power.

In this concise, engaging book, Susan-Mary Grant puts Holmes' life in national context, exploring how he both shaped and reflected his changing country. She examines the impact of the Civil War on his life and his thinking, his role in key cases ranging from the issue of free speech in Schenck v. United States to the infamous ruling in favor of eugenics in Buck v. Bell, showing how behind Holmes’ reputation as a liberal justice lay a more complex approach to law that did not neatly align with political divisions. Including a selection of key primary documents, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. introduces students of U.S., Civil War, and legal history to a game-changing figure and his times.


"In this stylish distillation of the life of a towering American, Susan-Mary Grant wrestles brilliantly with the question of what Oliver Wendell Holmes’s Civil War experience meant for his subsequent career as a jurist. Richly informed and elegant in argument, this is contextualised biography of a very high order."

— Richard Carwardine, author of The Global Lincoln

"This is a superb biography of one of the most influential American jurists of all time. Consistently incisive, it demonstrates not only how Justice Holmes was affected by his jarring experience of battle during the Civil War but also how, subsequently, he sought to negotiate his country’s equally painful transition to modernity."

—Robert Cook, author of Secession Winter: When the Union Fell Apart

"Susan-Mary Grant expertly tracks Holmes from the battlefields of the Civil War to the legal minefields of the Progressive era, deftly navigating his complex positions on slavery, free speech, and other issues. Understanding Holmes, we better understand America's passage into the twentieth century."

—Paul Quigley, author of Shifting Grounds: Nationalism and the American South, 1848-65

Table of Contents

Part I: Oliver Wendell Holmes


Chapter 1: An Antebellum Adolescence

Chapter 2: Citizen Soldier: The Brahmin on the Battlefield

Chapter 3: The Doubts of Civil Life, Law and Logic

Chapter 4: A Soldier’s Faith Chapter 5: The Strenuous Life


Part II: Documents

Selected Bibliography

About the Author

Susan-Mary Grant is Professor of American History at Newcastle University. Her previous books include A Concise History of the United States of America, The War for a Nation: The American Civil War, North Over South: Northern Nationalism and American Identity in the Antebellum Era, and Themes of the American Civil War: The War Between the States (co-edited with Brian Holden-Reid).

About the Series

Routledge Historical Americans

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
HISTORY / United States / 19th Century
HISTORY / United States / Civil War Period (1850-1877)
HISTORY / United States / 20th Century