The Harvard Law School Library staff invite you to attend a book talk and discussion for The Reformer: How One Liberal Fought to Preempt the Russian Revolution by Judge Stephen F. Williams (Encounter Books, Nov. 7, 2017). Stephen F. Williams is a Harvard Law School graduate and is Senior United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He will be joined in conversation with Joshua Rubenstein, Associate, Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Harvard University and Associate Director for Major Gifts at Harvard Law School, and author of The Last Days of Stalin (Yale Univ. Press, 2016) and also, with Alexis Peri, Assistant Professor of History at Boston University and author of The War Within: Diaries from the Siege of Leningrad (Harvard Univ. Press 2017). This talk is co-sponsored by the Harvard Russian Law Students Association.
Friday, March 9, 2018 at noon, with lunch
Harvard Law School WCC 2036 Milstein East B (Directions)
1585 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA
About The Reformer: How One Liberal Fought to Preempt the Russian Revolution
“Besides absolutists of the right (the tsar and his adherents) and left (Lenin and his fellow Bolsheviks), the Russian political landscape in 1917 featured moderates seeking liberal reform and a rapid evolution toward towards a constitutional monarchy. Vasily Maklakov, a lawyer, legislator and public intellectual, was among the most prominent of these, and the most articulate and sophisticated advocate of the rule of law, the linchpin of liberalism.
This book tells the story of his efforts and his analysis of the reasons for their ultimate failure. It is thus, in part, an example for movements seeking to liberalize authoritarian countries today—both as a warning and a guide.
Although never a cabinet member or the head of his political party—the Constitutional Democrats or “Kadets”—Maklakov was deeply involved in most of the political events of the period. He was defense counsel for individuals resisting the regime (or charged simply for being of the wrong ethnicity, such as Menahem Beilis, sometimes considered the Russian Dreyfus). He was continuously a member of the Kadets’ central committee and their most compelling orator. As a somewhat maverick (and moderate) Kadet, he stood not only between the country’s absolute extremes (the reactionary monarchists and the revolutionaries), but also between the two more or less liberal centrist parties, the Kadets on the center left, and the Octobrists on the center right. As a member of the Second, Third and Fourth Dumas (1907-1917), he advocated a wide range of reforms, especially in the realms of religious freedom, national minorities, judicial independence, citizens’ judicial remedies, and peasant rights.” — Encounter Books
About Judge Stephen F. Williams
Stephen F, Williams graduated from Harvard Law School in 1961 and practiced in the law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton and as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York; he then served as a professor of law at the University of Colorado and as a visiting professor at the University of Chicago, UCLA and Southern Methodist University. He was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit by President Reagan in 1986. His first book on Russian history, Liberal Reform in an Illiberal Regime: The Creation of Private Property Rights in Russia, 1906-15, addressed an effort to enhance peasant property rights, launched in a brief surge of reformist activity.
Joshua Rubenstein, Associate, Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Harvard University and Associate Director for Major Gifts at Harvard Law School
Alexis Peri, Assistant Professor of History at Boston University
More About The Reformer: How One Liberal Fought to Preempt the Russian Revolution
“The Reformer illuminates the life and times of Vasily Maklakov, one of the most remarkable lives during the most turbulent times in Russia’s history. Maklakov’s attempts to avoid revolution by bringing about revolutionary reform failed, but his course and his arguments should not be forgotten. . . . The Reformer is an essential book for anyone interested in Russian history, but its story is still all too relevant today, when freedom and the rule of law are under assault around the globe.” — Garry Kasparov, Chairman of the Human Rights Foundation and author of Winter Is Coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped
“Through extensive research, crystal-clear writing, and a keen and comprehensive understanding of his subject matter, Stephen F. Williams makes a truly important contribution to the study of the last years of tsarism and the efforts of one individual to try to make a difference. . . . Williams demonstrates a real mastery of the literature and original source material . . . and brings it altogether in a most readable and informative way.” — David J. Kramer, Senior Fellow, Florida International University and former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
“Williams’s study is impressive, informative, gripping. In the considerable overlap between the skills of a good lawyer and a good historian, Williams shines.” — Lars Lih, author of Lenin (2011) and Lenin Rediscovered (2008)
“A liberal rule of law is under attack worldwide, from Manila to Moscow. Judge Williams has written a lucid, brilliant account of a modern turning point―the failure of Russia to take the liberal direction it could have taken in 1917. . . . Williams has entire command of the historical sources for his tale, told in graceful prose. . . . We are not that far gone in losing the liberal vision of law. But to not remember the history is to risk repeating it.” — Deirdre McCloskey, Distinguished Professor of Economics, History and English at the University of Illinois at Chicago
“This is an unusual and in so many ways a brilliant book. It aims to explain the failure of the rule of law in the decades before the Bolshevik revolution of October 1917, through the biography of a key liberal figure of that era, Vasily Maklakov. There is no other work like this one, for there is no other written by a leading jurist who also happens to publish seriously as a historian of Russia.” — Daniel T. Orlovsky, Professor and George Bouhe Research Fellow in Russian Studies, Southern Methodist University