Michael Arnheim

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Michael Arnheim
Dr Michael Arnheim.jpeg
Born (1944-03-24) 24 March 1944 (age 74)
ResidenceUnited Kingdom
Alma materCambridge University (St John's College)
Occupationbarrister, professor, author
Years active1969–present

Michael Thomas Walter Arnheim (also known as "Doctor Mike"; born 24 March 1944) is a practising London Barrister,[1] Sometime Fellow of St John's College, Cambridge, and author. He has written eighteen published books to date, including most recently The God Book and Two Models of Government. Previously published books include The Handbook of Human Rights Law, Principles of the Common Law, The U.S. Constitution for Dummies and The Problem with Human Rights Law.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Michael Arnheim was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, to a secular orthodox Jewish family. His father, Dr Wilhelm Arnheim, who had come to South Africa from Germany in 1933, was a medical doctor and a polymath with a dry sense of humor. His mother, Victoria ("Vicky", née Shames) was a music teacher and an active member of the Council of Johannesburg's Great Synagogue. She was born in South Africa of Lithuanian-born parents, her father, Wolf Shames, being a noted rabbinical scholar. Michael Arnheim was particularly close to his paternal grandmother, Martha Arnheim (née Bernhardt, always called "Oma"), from whom he learnt German and by whom he was entertained with her amusing tales of life in Baerwalde, Pomerania, in pre-World War I Germany. Oma's husband (Michael Arnheim's grandfather), Max Arnheim, a prosperous barrel manufacturer, served in the German army in World War I, and Oma's father, Julius Bernhardt, fought proudly on the Prussian side in the Danish- Prussian War of 1864, the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 and the Franco-Prussian War of 1870.

As a 14-year-old student at King Edward VII School in Johannesburg, Arnheim was picked to join the "Quiz Kids" team of five capped and gowned teenagers, appearing on South Africa's Springbok Radio,[2] and of which he became a stalwart member, "retiring" at the age of eighteen. He entered Johannesburg's Witwatersrand University at the age of 16, he took a first-class B.A. in History and Classics at the age of 19, first-class Honours at 20 and an M.A. with distinction at the age of 21.[2]

Bridge of Sighs, St John's College, Cambridge, UK - Diliff.jpg

He then went up to St John's College Cambridge on a National Scholarship (later converted to a St John's College scholarship supplemented by a Strathcona Travel Exhibition).[2] Besides his academic pursuits (including teaching numerous undergraduates) he engaged in student politics, being elected a member of the Junior Combination Room committee and College NUS secretary, in which capacity he represented the College at several national conferences, including one in 1968 at which he proposed a widely supported motion to the effect that the English A-Level system was unduly narrow and should be broadened. He captained the College's University Challenge team, which displayed a hedgehog as its mascot by way of a gentle ribbing of the then Master of St John's, John Boys Smith, who had just published a paper on the subject. Arnheim had as his Ph.D. supervisor A.H.M. ("Hugo") Jones, then Cambridge Professor of Ancient History, and John Crook as his college mentor, who was to occupy the position of Professor of Ancient History later on.


In 1969, at the age of 25, Arnheim was awarded his Cambridge Ph.D. His doctoral dissertation was subsequently published by the Oxford University Press under the title The Senatorial Aristocracy in the Later Roman Empire.[3] In the meantime Arnheim was elected a Fellow of St John's College, Cambridge, where he did a great deal of teaching for a number of colleges while researching his next book, Aristocracy in Greek Society (1977),[4] which he was invited by Professor Howard Hayes Scullard to write as part of the prestigious Thames & Hudson series, Aspects of Greek and Roman Life.

At the age of 31 Arnheim was invited to take up the position of full Professor and Head of the Department of Classics back at his old university in South Africa.[2] During this time he devised a new system of learning Latin, which he would later integrate into a new approach to the learning of European languages in general. In 1979 he published South Africa after Vorster,[5] which correctly predicted that the alternative to White rule was not some sort of shared-power democracy between Blacks and Whites, as White "liberals" hoped, but rule by a Black oligarchy at the expense of Whites and ordinary Blacks alike.[6]

Arnheim's next book. Is Christianity True? (1984),[7] caused quite a stir and was translated into several languages, including Spanish. Through a close re-examination of the historical evidence the book asserted that most Christian beliefs about Jesus were untrue.[8] One review wrote:

Not many professional students of the NT believe that the Gospels are intended to be straight history or biography in the modem sense. Rather are they usually seen as theologically coloured, written by those who take Jesus Christ as the centre of their universe and who present us with what is essentially proclamation. Professor Michael Arnheim of the University of the Witwatersrand thinks this is entirely wrong; Christians ought to take the gospels au pied de la lettre, and then face some highly inconvenient facts: Jesus did not literally fulfil Jewish expectations of the Messiah and so was not the Messiah; many of the stories about him are plainly false or internally inconsistent; he himself does not exemplify the humility and above all the love even of enemies that he demanded; his ethical teaching is so unrealistic that it was bound to make Christians into the hypocrites that they are.[9]

Despite this, Arnheim was invited to address Professor Henry Chadwick's Patristics seminar in the Cambridge Divinity School.

Despondent about the future of South Africa, Arnheim returned to Britain, where he was called to the Bar by Lincoln's Inn in 1988,[2] and went into practice as a London barrister specializing in civil litigation, with a certain amount of criminal defence on the side, notably the Cardiff Prison Riot trial in 1992. Arnheim, in 1992, was an early voice in the legal profession to adamantly insist that a person could face criminal liability for knowingly concealing their HIV-positive status from a sexual partner.[10] His civil law practice has been largely in the field of commercial litigation including some international litigation as of counsel to Brown & Welsh P.C. of Meriden, Connecticut.

From early on in his practice at the Bar, Arnheim wrote articles in favor of clients' being allowed to come direct to a barrister, thus avoiding the additional expense of having to be referred by a solicitor. His pleas fell on deaf ears until the idea was taken up in a hard-hitting report by the Director of Fair Trading, Sir John Vickers, published in 2000. Arnheim was one of the first barristers to register for direct public access when this was eventually allowed in 2004. Arnheim has also written extensively on other legal topics, ranging from court procedure to the common law, constitutional law, judicial power and human rights.


Dr Arnheim at a book-signing at the Tattered Cover Bookstore, Denver, Colorado, in September, 2016.

Arnheim is known for his original and provocative ideas in several fields, notably religion, history, politics, law and language.


The God Book (2015),[11] a sequel to Is Christianity True? (1984), is a thoroughgoing critique of atheism and conventional religion alike. The book argues that atheism and conventional religion are both deficient in credibility as well as in toleration. Superior to both in both respects is Deism, or the belief in an impersonal God who does not get involved in the day-to-day affairs of the world.[12]

Arnheim additionally authored an article entitled "God Without Religion" for publication in Pandeism: An Anthology (2017).[13]

History & Politics[edit]

Arnheim's Cambridge Ph.D. thesis, published by the Oxford University Press in 1972 under the title The Senatorial Aristocracy in the Later Roman Empire, offered a new explanation of the "decline and fall" of the Roman Empire in the West. Arnheim contended that the reason the Western Empire fell was that the central government in the West was sapped from within by the senatorial aristocracy, who now again dominated the top administrative posts while building up their own countervailing local power through the spread of large estates. As a result, the central government proved unable to withstand the "barbarian" incursions. The same rise of the senatorial aristocracy did not occur in the Eastern half of the Empire, which therefore survived for another thousand years, albeit in a gradually shrinking state.

This analysis itself was based on a new theory about the essential nature of governmental power, namely that there are and have ever been essentially only two models of government: (a) where power is concentrated in the hands of a minority, whether hereditary or not; and (b) where power is concentrated in the hands of a single individual. This analysis was also the subject of Aristocracy in Greek Society (1977). The same model was then tested and found to apply to modern history and the present-day world as well. This is the theme of Two Models of Government,[14] published in 2016.


Arnheim-07-20-17 b.jpg

In 1994 Arnheim was invited to edit a volume of essays on the Common Law in the prestigious Dartmouth series, and published in the US by New York University Press. This book was followed up by Principles of the Common Law (2004), which sought to restate some basic principles of the Common Law that had been lost sight of in recent years.

Arnheim was invited by Butterworths to write a book on the drafting of settlement agreements: Drafting Settlements of Disputes: A Guide for Litigators (1994). In 2000 he was asked by Butterworths to write (together with District Judge Christopher Tromans) a guide to the new procedural rules that had just been introduced: Civil Courts Practice and Procedure Handbook.[15]

The Handbook of Human Rights Law, published by Kogan Page in 2004,[16] provided a whole new take on the subject focusing particularly on the way human rights law had been hijacked by special interest groups made up notably of illegal immigrants, asylum seekers, terrorist suspects and even convicted killers. This theme was picked up in the booklet written at the invitation of the Civitas thinktank titled The Problem with Human Rights Law (2015), in which it was argued that the unduly "politically correct" tenor of human rights court decisions in the United Kingdom were largely the fault not of the European Court of Human Rights, as the British Government believed, but of the domestic judiciary. Judicial supremacism has been a recurrent theme of many of Arnheim's articles, notably the article titled "Five Centuries of Legal Thinking" that he was invited by St John's College, Cambridge, to write on the 500th anniversary of the foundation of the College.[17] Judicial supremacism also figures quite prominently in Two Models of Government.

Arnheim was delighted to be asked to write the U.S. Constitution for Dummies (2009)[18] as part of the well-known Wileys series of books with their distinctive black-and-yellow covers. To accommodate Arnheim's own opinions the publishers created two new icons, one for "In my Opinion" and the other for "Controversy". The Foreword was written by Senator Ted Cruz.


While on vacation in Mozambique at the age of fourteen Arnheim found that he was able to understand the local Portuguese-language newspapers on the basis of his schoolboy Latin. He later developed this approach, based on English, into a fully-fledged method of building a learner's vocabulary not only in Latin but in the Romance languages as well, and even to some extent in other European languages. This is the subject of a book, provisionally titled Angel Tongue, on which Arnheim is currently working as of December 1, 2015.





  1. ^ "Dr Michael Arnheim". HuffPost UK. Retrieved 2018-01-25.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Amazon.com: Dr Michael Arnheim: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle". www.amazon.com. Retrieved 2017-11-17.
  3. ^ Amazon.com page for The Senatorial Aristocracy in the Later Roman Empire.
  4. ^ Arnheim, M. T. W. (1977-06-20). Aristocracy in Greek Society (y First ed.). London: Thames & Hudson Ltd. ISBN 9780500400319.
  5. ^ Arnheim, M. T. W. (1979). South Africa after Vorster. Cape Town; Sparta, N.J.: H. Timmins. ISBN 9780869781685.
  6. ^ Christopher Coker, "Boputhatswana and the South African Homelands," The World Today, Vol. 39, No. 6 (Jun., 1983), pp. 231-240.
  7. ^ Arnheim, Michael (1984-09-01). Is Christianity True?: A Critical Re-examination of the Evidence (First American ed.). Buffalo: Prometheus Books. ISBN 9780879752620.
  8. ^ Robert P. Carroll, Review, "Is Christianity True? By Michael Arnheim", Scottish Journal of Theology, Volume 38 / Issue 02 / May 1985, pp 252-255.
  9. ^ J. A. Ziesler, "The Body of God," The Expository Times, October 1984, Vol. 96 no. 1, 28.
  10. ^ DC Ormerod, MJ Gunn, "Criminal Liability for the Transmission of HIV", Web Journal of Current Legal Issues, 1996, quoting Arnheim in The Guardian, June 24, 1992.
  11. ^ Arnheim, Dr Michael (2015-10-01). The God Book (1 ed.). Imprint Academic. ISBN 9781845407902.
  12. ^ Dr Michael Arnheim, My Challenge to Richard Dawkins and Jonathan Sacks: Why Both Atheists And Religious People Are Wrong, Huffington Post, Posted: 20/10/2015 17:36 BST Updated: 20/10/2015 17:59 BST
  13. ^ Amazon.com page for Pandeism: An Anthology.
  14. ^ Arnheim, Dr Michael (2016-03-01). Two Models of Government: A New Classification of Governments in Terms of Power (1 ed.). Imprint Academic. ISBN 9781845408848.[1]
  15. ^ Arnheim, Michael; Tromans, Christopher (1999-11-12). Civil Courts Practice and Procedure Handbook. Croydon, Surrey: Tolley Publishing. ISBN 9780754505846.
  16. ^ Arnheim, Michael (2006-01-28). The Handbook of Human Rights Law: An Accessible Approach to the Issues and Principles. London: Kogan Page. ISBN 9780749444808.
  17. ^ The Eagle, 2011, Volume 93.
  18. ^ Arnheim (2009-05-18). U.S. Constitution For Dummies (1 ed.). Hoboken, N.J.: For Dummies. ISBN 9780764587801.

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