Alan Dershowitz, asked by the Wall Street Journal [January 17th], to list his pick of of five best books on momentous legal cases has included History on Trial, in his pick .
History on TrialThe other four are The Leo Frank Case by Leonard Dinnerstein [Columbia University, 1968], Summer for the Gods by Edward J. Larson [Basic Books, 1997] on the Scopes trial, The Rosenberg File by Ronald Radosh and Joyce Milton [Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1983], and Until Proven Innocent by Stuart Taylor Jr. and KC Johnson [Thomas Dunne, 2007] on the Duke Lacrosse team.
By Deborah E. Lipstadt
"History on Trial" is Deborah E. Lipstadt's compelling first-person account of her experience as the defendant in a libel suit brought in 1996 by British author David Irving, who was unhappy that she had described him in print as a Holocaust denier. As I wrote in an afterword for the book, the trial was a rare instance in which "truth, justice and freedom of speech [were] all simultaneously served." What was at stake in the case transcended Lipstadt's reputation and fortune. Her antagonist sought to put the Holocaust itself on trial. This worried survivors, concerned that their history was being subjected to a judicial test, with standards of evidence and proof that did not always produce truth. Moreover, under British law, truth was not necessarily a defense to defamation. Through the determination of Lipstadt and the brilliant legal work of her lawyer, Anthony Julius, especially his devastating cross-examination of Irving, the court ruled that she had written the truth -- Irving is indeed a Holocaust denier -- and that he had not been defamed. The verdict also helped to expand the right of truthful free speech in Britain.