Cover: The Taming of Free Speech: America’s Civil Liberties Compromise, from Harvard University PressCover: The Taming of Free Speech in HARDCOVER

The Taming of Free Speech

America’s Civil Liberties Compromise

Add to Cart

Product Details


$46.50 • £37.95 • €42.00

ISBN 9780674545717

Publication Date: 10/10/2016


480 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches


Utterly brilliant… Balanced and restrained in her writing but original and subversive in her argument, Weinrib stops short of offering morals from this history… Most important, Weinrib reanimates a strange time when the forces of business and the forces of labor were engaged in a pitched battle about the way Americans should construct their economy. When you go looking for the origins of civil libertarianism, it turns out, you find a class struggle… Weinrib’s book is an extraordinary reminder of why history matters to the present.—Samuel Moyn, The Wall Street Journal

[An] important revisionist history of the origins of American civil liberties… Offer[s] important correctives to the celebratory accounts of civil liberties that we so often tell ourselves.—David Cole, The New York Review of Books

The Taming of Free Speech is…a complex story about the evolution of political and legal tactics within competing organizations and among the notable cast of characters at their helm… [A] provocative book.—Sophia Rosenfeld, Dissent

This excellent book chronicles the shift in the American Civil Liberties Union’s conception of free speech from a natural right of labor to ‘agitate’ against capital through coercive tactics like aggressive picketing and strikes, to a ‘tamer,’ value-neutral vision of free speech… Thoughtful and informative.—Burt Neuborne, The Historian

In this well-written and thoroughly researched book, Weinrib explores the central role that the U.S. labor movement played in promoting civil liberties while advocating workers’ rights and, sometimes, revolutionary change. Ultimately, Weinrib shows how labor’s alliance with the ACLU helped to establish a new battleground in which labor eventually was destined to lose.—Rebecca E. Zietlow, American Historical Review

A fascinating retelling of First Amendment history.—Anders Walker, American Journal of Legal History

Provocative in its assessment of what the consequences of the ‘taming of free speech’ have been.—Donna T. Haverty-Stacke, Law and History Review

Provides a fascinating look at the social, intellectual, and economic forces at work in the early 20th century, shaping the relationship of the economic classes to each other and to the government and resulting in the modern understanding of civil liberties.—Victor Baltera, Massachusetts Law Review

Joins the select ranks of must reads for those interested in the history of American civil liberties… A deeply considered, smartly presented, genuinely insightful analysis of the evolution of the early civil liberties movement.—Robert C. Cottrell, North Carolina Historical Review

Extremely original and well-written… [A] wide-ranging history.—David M. Rabban, Reviews in American History

A fascinating read, as constitutional history and as storytelling… The book highlights the underappreciated foundational role of the interwar ACLU.—D. E. Smith, Choice

This is a big, bold project, a painting on a large canvas, depicting many different scenes in the manner of a Brueghel painting or WPA mural. It is a major work of history which will, I am quite sure, remain for many years the authoritative account of the ACLU’s pivotal role in producing our modern law of free expression.—Robert W. Gordon, Stanford Law School

Weinrib’s important reconstruction of the history of our notions of free expression shows how an idea first offered on behalf of labor radicals became transformed into a general account of why all dissent from the conventional should be protected. The Taming of Free Speech is a major contribution to the history of civil liberties.—Mark Tushnet, Harvard Law School

Recent News

From Our Blog

Jacket: Forgotten Healers: Women and the Pursuit of Health in Late Renaissance Italy, by Sharon T. Strocchia, from Harvard University Press

Q&A with Sharon Strocchia, author of Forgotten Healers: Women and the Pursuit of Health in Late Renaissance Italy

As part of Women’s History Month, we spoke with Sharon T. Strocchia about her new book, Forgotten Healers: Women and the Pursuit of Health in Late Renaissance Italy, which uncovers the crucial role women played in the great transformations of medical science and health care that accompanied the Italian Renaissance. Your research demonstrates that women in Renaissance Italy played a major role in providing health care.

‘manifold glories of classical Greek and Latin’

The digital Loeb Classical Library ( extends the founding mission of James Loeb with an interconnected, fully searchable, perpetually growing virtual library of all that is important in Greek and Latin literature.