"The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it."
- James Bryce
James Bryce was born in Belfast, Ireland in 1838 and brought up in Scotland. After attending Trinity College Cambridge he was elected a fellow of Oriel College, Oxford. His 1864 work, The Holy Roman Empire, established his reputation as a legal historian. His 1901 Studies in History and Jurisprudence led to a revival in the study of Roman law (the legal system of ancient Rome from 449 BC to about 530 AD, which serves as the legal basis for much of Continental Europe).
An avid traveler, Bryce made the first of many trips to the USA in 1870 where he is best known for The American Commonwealth (1888), a study of United States political institutions.
In 1880 he entered the British House of Commons where he sat for over 20 years as a Liberal member, at different times serving as undersecretary for foreign affairs, president of the Board of Trade, chairman of the Royal Commission on Secondary Education and chief secretary for Ireland.
His 1895 visit to South Africa led him to protest the handling of negotiations with the Boer republics, an argument he laid out in Impressions of South Africa (1897) which influenced the Liberal position on the Boer War.
From 1907-1913 he was the British ambassador to the United States. On his return to Britain in 1913 he was elevated to the peerage, and thus to the House of Lords, becoming the 1st Viscount Bryce of Dechmount in the County of Lanark. During the remaining 9 years of his life, he served on the International Court at The Hague and supported the establishment of the League of Nations. He died in 1922 at the age of 83.
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