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Book Review: Law And War Magistrates In The Great War by Jonathan Swan

Jonathan Swan
Johnathan Swan has tackled an area relatively under- reported to date ,the role of the magistrates in the First World War .
General mobilisation did not come as a bolt from the blue in 1914, years of planning had been spent in contemplating the transition to war, all regular, reserve and volunteer personnel had a place. The railways and merchant marine knew their place as did the Post Office and most government departments.
The British had never held a levee en masse and the system of Common Law was dramatically at odds with the Napoleonic code or the totalitarian rules of Germany and Russia. How would the rights of the citizen be preserved while fighting a major continental war?
The author has examined the role of the magistrates in the Great War in fine tooth detail. The book is divided into 13 chapters, starting with an overview of summary justice in 1914. Topics include DORA (Defence Of The Realm Act) , Alcohol Regulation ,Rationing and Enemy Aliens. Finally a Lessons Learned chapter.
The research has obviously been thorough ,with 15 pages of footnotes and a comprehensive index. Fine tooth detail includes regulation prohibiting the theft of milk bottles and cans ! On a more serious note the work shows the basis for Second World War legislation and the Civil Contingencies Act 2004.
There is also a short area dealing with magistrates who served in HM's forces including a Captain Vaughan who bayoneted a number of Germans, surely a first for a magistrate, Vaughan was awarded a DSO and survived the war. This section is very brief which is unfortunate as it lightens the tone of a worthy book.
Jonathan Swan has also written Chelmsford in the Great War and a number of magazine items.
This is a book probably aimed at the specialist reader ,especially anyone in the military legal world or researching law. It would certainly be ideal for cross referencing and for further research.
Pen and Sword have printed to their usual high standard with gloss photographs and runs to 243 pages plus notes and index. The book is priced at £25 in hardback and £18.00 in Kindle, with a few cheaper offers on Amazon
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