Book Review of Free Speech: A Very Short Introduction by Nigel Warburton

Warburton, Nigel: Free Speech: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, 2009. ($11.95|116 pages|978-0-19-923235-2|paperback).

 Free speech has continued to be a highly debated topic.  “Should all speech be protected at any cost?” is often the question.  There are some who would advocate that without an uncensored and uninterrupted freedom of speech, society will eventually move towards a non-democratic environment.  Still there are others who are supporters of free speech but feel that in certain circumstances the right to free speech should be limited.  With his book Free Speech: A Very Short Introduction, Lecturer Nigel Warburton provides a very careful and efficient inspection of this area by discussing the central arguments as they are related to the idea of free speech while examining the need for limitations.

Free Speech: A Very Short Introduction is a new release from Oxford University Press in their Very Short Introduction titles.  It is organized into five chapters.  The book starts with a general overview of free speech in the first chapter.  The chapters that follow provide brief explanations of several key points in the free speech debate, including, but not limited to, the censorship of pornography and a chapter on the internet.  Warburton concludes the book with his speculations as to where we may see the future of free speech lead.  He also provides a section of books that would be helpful about free speech.

Warburton provides a brief look into what free speech is and why it is important.  Being that it is a short introduction to the area of free speech and not a comprehensive textbook or how to guide, the title will be a useful addition to any library seeking to acquire titles that will assist in explaining this idea in a concise manner, but would appear to be most useful in an academic setting.  The title will be great for students who have been newly introduced to the idea of free speech and need a to the point look at free speech without feeling overwhelmed by mounds of legal jargon.  Although not intended as a study guide, the book does serve as a brief snap shot of the important ideals surrounding free speech and would compliment lecture materials.  It will also be useful as a great starting point for those individuals who are developing or have an interest in this hot topic area and need a quick read to introduce them to the highlights of free speech.  The book can be a great learning tool.  I would recommend this title to professors in the area of first amendment law as a way of introducing their students to the idea.      

As a researcher in the area of First Amendment law, I found Free Speech: A Very Short Introduction a very well written and easy to read beginning to the topic of free speech.  The organization of the book provided a straightforward discussion that readers could follow effortlessly.  Warburton’s writing proves that he is well versed in the area and provides support to back up his findings.  His use and inclusion of some key figures, such as Judge Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., in the area of free speech only adds to the book’s appeal.  Warburton’s discussion of John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty provides readers with intriguing and thought-provoking insight.  I found Free Speech: A Very Short Introduction to provide exactly what the title series set out to accomplish by introducing the free speech in a brief and easy to read format. 

 –Tiffany R. Paige, Esq., Acting Acquisitions Librarian, Mississippi College Law Library.

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August 2009

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