Protecting the Best Men

An Interpretive History of the Law of Libel

By Norman L. Rosenberg

Protecting the Best Men

380 pp., 6.125 x 9.25

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-4290-4
    Published: September 1990

Studies in Legal History

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From the trial of John Peter Zenger in the eighteenth century to the recent libel cases of William Westmoreland and Ariel Sharon, political defamation cases have attracted considerable attention. As Norman Rosenberg shows, cases like these raise fundamental questions about how much criticism of public leaders a supposedly open, liberal society will permit.

Drawing upon a wide variety of historical sources, Protecting the Best Men argues that there exists no natural, evolutionary history of free speech. It also challenges interpretations that rest upon discovering an "original understanding" about the First Amendment. Instead, this interpretive history of the law of libel highlights the complexity and historically rooted nature of legal concepts and legal consciousness in the United States.

Originally published in 1990.

A UNC Press Enduring Edition -- UNC Press Enduring Editions use the latest in digital technology to make available again books from our distinguished backlist that were previously out of print. These editions are published unaltered from the original, and are presented in affordable paperback formats, bringing readers both historical and cultural value.

About the Author

Norman L. Rosenberg is coauthor of In Our Times and Generation of Americans.
For more information about Norman L. Rosenberg, visit the Author Page.


"Rosenberg has written a fine book that demonstrates that libel law, like other supposedly timeless and apparently fundamental legal doctrines, depends on historical forces and follows no clear line of development.--Law & Society Review