Had Bryce died on his fiftieth birthday, 10 May 1888, he would have been known as the author of The Holy Roman Empire, as a distinguished Regius Professor of Civil Law and as a respectable but undistinguished Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs. The record would have been impressive enough but the content of achievement would have been orthodox – such as might be paralleled by many an academic liberal, British or European. Within a few months, however, Bryce broke into a new field and established a reputation of quite another order, with the appearance in December of The American Commortwealth, The book was more than a notable study of American institutions; it marked the recognition by a European mind of the first order of the importance and interest of the government, politics and manner of life of the contemporary United States. Tocqueville had paid such a tribute, a half-century earlier, but his example had not been followed up. Moreover, penetrating as his study was, as an analysis and a prophecy, one element was lacking in his tribute – observation.