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Habeas Corpus: A Very Short Introduction

Amanda L. Tyler

27 May 2021

ISBN: 9780190918989

160 pages

In Stock

Very Short Introductions

Price: £8.99



For nearly eight hundred years, the writ of habeas corpus has limited the executive in the Anglo-American legal tradition from imprisoning citizens and subjects with impunity. The writ empowers the judiciary to determine whether an arrest has been made with just cause and, where appropriate, to award prisoners their freedom. For this reason, the eighteenth-century jurist William Blackstone described the writ of habeas corpus as a "bulwark" of our liberties and the English Habeas Corpus Act of 1679 as a "second Magna Carta." Amanda L. Tyler traces the history of habeas corpus from its origins in English law to its spread throughout the world and its incorporation in the American constitutional framework, giving special attention to its application at various flashpoints in recent history, including during World War II and the War on Terror.

  • Offers a concise history of habeas corpus in western law
  • Discusses ongoing debates surrounding the grant and suspension of habeas corpus
  • Explores major historical episodes such as World War II internment and the War on Terror
  • Written in clear prose for a general audience

About the Author(s)

Amanda L. Tyler, Shannon Cecil Turner Professor of Law, University of California, Berkeley

Amanda L. Tyler is the Shannon Cecil Turner Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, where she teaches and writes about the federal courts, the Supreme Court, constitutional law, legal history, and procedure. Tyler is the author of Habeas Corpus in Wartime: From the Tower of London to Guantanamo Bay. She is also a co-author, with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, of Justice, Justice Thou Shalt Pursue: A Life's Work Fighting for a More Perfect Union. In addition, Tyler has served since 2016 as a co-editor of Hart and Wechsler's The Federal Courts and the Federal System, and she was a contributing author to Federal Court Stories and the Cambridge Companion to the United States Constitution. Tyler is a graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Law School and a former law clerk to the Honorable Guido Calabresi at the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and the Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the Supreme Court of the United States.

Table of Contents

    Lists of Illustrations
    1: The English origins
    2: The limits and potential of habeas corpus
    3: Revolution
    4: Habeas corpus comes to America
    5: Habeas corpus in the early United States
    6: Civil war and suspension
    7: Reconstruction and expansion of the writ
    8: World War II and the demise of the great writ
    9: Habeas corpus today
    Further Reading


"It is a real achievement to encapsulate and illustrate these various themes and principles so concisely, enabling even the reader without any prior legal knowledge to gain an insight into the nature of what has long been celebrated as this "great palladium of the liberties of the subject"." - Trevor Allan, Society

"In this elegantly concise and concisely elegant volume, Amanda Tyler introduces readers to the privilege of the 'writ of habeas corpus'—one of the only individual liberties expressly enshrined in the original text of the US Constitution. In a tidy and terrific narrative, Tyler shows not just how an esoteric legal remedy came to be instrumental to the rule of law, but why it is incumbent upon all of us to fight to resurrect its historical role even as contemporary courts increasingly turn their backs." - Stephen I. Vladeck, Charles Alan Wright Chair in Federal Courts, University of Texas School of Law

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