To Keep and Bear Arms: The Origins of an Anglo-American Right

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9780674893061: To Keep and Bear Arms: The Origins of an Anglo-American Right

Joyce Malcolm illuminates the historical facts underlying the current passionate debate about gun-related violence, the Brady Bill, and the NRA, revealing the original meaning and intentions behind the individual right to "bear arms." few on either side of the Atlantic realize that this extraordinary, controversial, and least understood liberty was a direct legacy of English law. This book explains how the Englishmen's hazardous duty evolved into a right, and how it was transferred to America and transformed into the Second Amendment.

Malcolm's story begins in turbulent seventeenth-century England. She shows why English subjects, led by the governing classes, decided that such a dangerous public freedom as bearing arms was necessary Entangled in the narrative are shifting notions of the connections between individual ownership of weapons and limited government, private weapons and social status, the citizen army and the professional army, and obedience and resistance, as well as ideas about civilian control of the sword and self-defense. The results add to our knowledge of English life, politics, and constitutional development, and present a historical analysis of a controversial Anglo-American legacy, a legacy that resonates loudly in America today.

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About the Author:

Joyce Lee Malcolm is Professor of History, Bentley College.

Review:

Joyce Malcolm's book reminds us forcibly that arguments for gun ownership were, until quite recently, respectable and persuasive, and that gun control and peaceable behaviour appear to be unrelated phenomena.
--David Wootton (London Review of Books)

A work of genuine excellence, as persuasive in its argument as it is unsettling in its implications...Malcolm's prose is both vigorous and elegant, and occasionally even witty, a virtue rarely to be found in a constitutional treatise. The book should generate a healthy debate about the future of gun control in America.
--Douglas R. Egerton (American Historical Review)

A wide audience, including social scientists, historians, lawyers, and anyone interested in the gun-ownership debate, should welcome this concise, well-written history.
--Allan D. Olmsted (Contemporary Sociology)

[Malcolm] provides a skillful analysis of how the Englishmen's duty to bear arms was transformed into a right to bear arms.
--Robert E. Shalhope (Journal of American History)

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Joyce Lee Malcolm
Published by Harvard University Press (1994)
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