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Pages 98

Lady Chatterley's Lover and Literary Freedom

The 1960 obscenity trial of DH Lawrence's 'Lady Chatterley's Lover' remains a symbol of freedom of expression. It is also a seminal case in British literary and social history.

It has rightly been credited with being the catalyst which encouraged frank discussion of sexual behaviour so that it was no longer seen as a 'taboo' subject. This trial highlighted the gap between modern society and an out-of-touch establishment.

When Penguin Books released a new unexpurgated edition of 'Lady Chatterley's Lover' in 1960, they were charged with publishing obscene material contrary to the Obscene Publications Act of 1959. The trial of R v Penguin Books Limited, which ended in an acquittal for the publishers, was an important victory for freedom of expression, and saw publishing in Britain become considerably more liberal.

This work introduces readers to the trial itself, describing the prosecution and defence opening and closing speeches to the jury, the examination of witnesses, before culminating in the judge's summing-up of the case and the final verdict.

The witness statements, together with counsel's questioning are based on the trial transcripts as they were reported at the time without any omissions.

In this way, the reader is provided with all the evidence that was available to the jury and invited to reach a considered assessment of the case.

The work concludes by posing a question for the reader to consider;

'Can certain literature 'actually' corrupt, or does it simply encourage expensive court trials and boost sales?'

Dr David Holding studied history at Manchester University before entering the teaching profession in the 1970s. He taught in both state and independent sectors. During this time, he continued historical research culminating in both a Master's degree and a Doctorate. Having previously studied law, David gained a Master of Law degree in Medical Law, which enabled him to transfer to teaching legal courses at university. Since retiring, David has concentrated his research and writing on various aspects of local history, legal trials, forensic science and medico-legal topics.

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