A.W.B. Simpson

A.W.B. Simpson is a professor of law at the University of Kent. His Cannibalism and the Common Law is due out this year in the United States. He is currently working in the field of 19th-century legal history.

Soft Spur

A.W.B. Simpson, 3 February 1983

When the publishers announced yet another book by Lord Denning, the fourth in three years, and one with the alarming title What next in the Law, I recall feeling a sense of foreboding: what next indeed? Recalled shortly after publication because of some unfortunate remarks about juries and the nature of society (subjects upon which judges, if one reflects on the matter, are not likely to be well-informed), What next in the Law is once more available, albeit with the naughty bits removed. The central theme of the book is law reform, and it is explained in the preface that Lord Denning has fallen to musing on the fate of shelved commission and committee reports. ‘So I thought: some spur is needed so as to get things done. Then I added, with undue presumption: My book shall be the spur.’ Some parts of his book are indeed devoted to such matters as the fate of the Pearson Commission Report on Civil Liability and Compensation for Personal Injury (1978), though I note with sadness, but without surprise, that no tears are shed for the Williams Committee Report on Obscenity and Film Censorship (1979), which was perhaps too liberal for Lord Denning’s taste. Much of the book, however, has little direct connection with the avowed aim of goading the mandarins into action, and I suspect that Lord Denning enjoys presenting his pensées to the British public, who, my informants in the publishing trade assure me, buy them like hot cakes. We have observations on the wearing of wigs (‘Some say it is out of date. Maybe it is’), on contingent fees (‘Never, never allow lawyers to work on the basis of a “contingency fee” ’), on judicial attitudes to the European Convention on Human Rights (my favourite: ‘Sometimes we find it helpful. Sometimes not … ’) and on a discriminatory Lloyds Bank Pension scheme (‘Its pension schemes were excellent’). There is also much history, presented in a chatty style uncomplicated by heavy scholarship. Indeed, to judge by his account of the death of Blackstone, Lord Denning appears to think study it positively dangerous:

Airy-Fairy: Blunkett’s Folly

Conor Gearty, 29 November 2001

In 1920 our ‘Mad Mullah’ was Mullah Yussuf Dua Mohammed. Ensconced in British Somaliland, he and his dervishes were the subject of repeated air attacks by an RAF unit. As A.W.B....

Read More

When judges sleep

Stephen Sedley, 10 June 1993

Every so often, poking around in the law’s attic for something you need, you come across a piece of legislation or a report of a case which still has enough grass and twigs sticking to it...

Read More

Eating people

Claude Rawson, 24 January 1985

Cannibalism haunts our fictions from Homer to Ovid, from Euripides to Shakespeare, from Defoe to Sade, Flaubert, Melville, Conrad and Genet. It has been a theme in the vocabulary of political and...

Read More

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences