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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Backhouse on L'Heureux-Dubé's untaken career path in politics

In the new issue of the Canadian Journal of Law and Society /La Revue Canadienne Droit et Société, Constance Backhouse has an intriguing counterfactual study of former SCC judge Claire L'Heureux-Dubé, "Essay: What if? Career Paths not Taken: Claire L'Heureux-Dubé and Politics."

No abstract, sadly.  But you can look at a preview, here.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

CFP: Remaking North American Sovereignty: Towards a Continental History of State Transformation in the Mid Nineteenth- Century

Courtesy of Lyndsay Campbell. This conference may interest legal historians of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico:

Call for papers:    Remaking North American Sovereignty: Towards aContinental History of State Transformation in the Mid Nineteenth-Century Date: July 30-August 1, 2015 at the  Banff  Centre  in  Banff,  Alberta,  Canada.

This  conference  considers  state  making  in  mid-nineteenth  century  North  America from  a  continent-wide  perspective. Peaking  in  the  years  1865-67  with  the  end  of  the  American  Civil  War,  Canadian  Confederation,  and  the  restoration  of  the  Mexican  republic  after  the  expulsion  of  Maximilian,  a French-imposed  monarch, this  era  of  political  transformation  has  had  profound  consequences  for  the  future  of  the  continent.

Key  to  the  reformulation  of  North  American  polities  was  the  question  of  sovereignty,  or  the  power  to  rule.  Conflicts over  sovereignty went  well  beyond  the  years  1865-67  and  encompassed  not  only  the  political  and  diplomatic  aspects of  state-making but  also  the  broader social, economic,  and  cultural  histories  of  this  process. 

Thus  far,  the  continental  dimensions  of North  American  sovereignty have  been  obscured  by  historical  traditions  that  confine  each  of  these  state making  conflicts  within  its  specific  national  framework.  In  light  of  the  global  turn  in  19th century historiography,  as  well  as  the  real  interconnections across  the  continent,  it  is  time  to  consider  these  political  crises  as  an  inter-related  struggle  to  redefine  the  relationship  of  North  Americans  to  new  governments.

Keynote addresses  will  be  delivered by  Professors  Steven  Hahn,  University  of
Pennsylvania;  Pekka  Hämäläinen, Oxford  University;  Erika  Pani,  Colegio  de  Mexico;  and Andrew  Smith,  University  of  Liverpool. 

The  conference  organizers  seek  papers  that  offer  original  work  examining  different  aspects  of  national  sovereignty  formation  in North  America during  this  period.  Work  that  examines  these  conflicts  in  a  transnational  perspective  is  especially  welcome. Paper  proposals  (between  200-500  words)  should  be  accompanied  by  a  brief  CV  and  should  be  submitted  to  Frank  Towers  (  by  August  31,  2014.  Papers from the conference  may  be  included  in  a  publication.  In  preparation,  presenters  will  be asked  to  circulate  drafts  of  their  papers  by  July  1,  2015. This  conference  is  sponsored  by  the George  and  Ann  Richards  Civil  War  Era  Center  at  Penn State  University  and  supported  by  the  Virginia  Center  for  Civil  War  Studies at  Virginia  Tech University and  the  University  of  Calgary. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Coombe on defamation law and on breach of promise law in Ontario on SSRN

Via Dan Ernst on the Legal History Blog:

Rosemary Coombe, York University, has been posting her backlist on SSRN.  Two articles of special interest to legal historians.  The first is  'The Most Disgusting, Disgraceful and Inequitous Proceeding in Our Law': The Action for Breach of Promise of Marriage in Nineteenth Century OntarioUniversity of Toronto Law Journal 38 (1988): 64-108:  
This study examines judicial management of the action for breach of promise of marriage in nineteenth-century Ontario through an analysis of reported cases, trial records, and newspaper accounts. This seldom researched area of legal history sheds light on the interplay between cultural ideology and legal developments. Breach of promise of marriage cases elicited much societal attention and often consternation because they challenged widely held attitudes on women’s participation in the legal system. This study also illustrates how judges at the time exhibited a strong commitment to judicial autonomy in the face of contentious juridical gender issues, as these cases often threatened Victorian visions of social order.
A second is Contesting the Self: Negotiating Subjectivities in Nineteenth-Century Ontario Defamation TrialsStudies in Law, Politics and Society 11 (1991): 3-40: 
Understanding the hegemonic quality of legal discourse requires us to view hegemony as unfolding in multiple sights of discursive practice. Thus, we must begin to analyze not only hegemonic legal discourse but hegemony in social sights of legal practice in order to see that legal practice is essential in processes of domination and social ordering. In this article, I explore the processes of political subjection and resistance as they manifest in witness testimony and judicial decisions from late nineteenth century defamation trials in Ontario. I argue that slander and libel suits were integral in constructing particular legitimate knowledges about class and gender as categories of social identity.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Exhibition on JCPC includes Famous 5 among highlighted stories

If you are in London (U.K.) this summer, check out a free exhibition on the JCPC: "A Court at the Crossroads of Empire: Stories from the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council." Included in the highlighted stories is the Famous Five "Persons Case."

Here's the website for details..

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Invitation to join Collaborative Research Network for Law & History (US and non-US)

Via H-Net, the following (terrific) announcement and invitation:

Greetings from the Law & History Collaborative Research Network, part of the Law & Society Association (

We have just come from the Law and Society Association annual meeting in Minneapolis, where we were thrilled with the success of our first year as a Collaborative Research Network.  Creating a CRN, we think, significantly improved the discussion of legal history at LSA.  We were able to better coordinate and publicize legal history panels and create new opportunities to interact scholars from other fields.  But we hope that this is just the beginning.  With more participation, we believe next year will be even better, and we invite you to join us.

What is the Law & History CRN?
The Law & History CRN brings together scholars interested in legal history, both American and non-American, of any time period from contemporary to ancient.  We welcome a broad array of scholarly interests and methodological approaches. The Law and Society Movement has long welcomed legal historians and encouraged legal history, and our CRN intends to further foster this relationship. We seek to encourage presentation of historical legal work at the Law and Society’s Association’s annual meeting, and to create opportunities for interdisciplinary and cross-generational conversations.

What does it mean to join the Law & History CRN?
It means you will be welcomed into a network of scholars interested in participating in the historical examination of the law at the Law and Society Association annual meeting and beyond.  In practical terms, joining the CRN means joining a listserv (administered via Google Groups) that we use to alert members of the LSA’s call for papers, organize panels, and communicate about panels of interest for scholars interested in law and history at LSA.  We will also on rare occasions send out other announcements relevant to legal history.

The next Law & Society Association meeting will be held May 28-31 in Seattle, Washington. The call for papers should be out soon, and the deadline for submitting papers and panels will be in the fall of 2014, so it's not to early to start thinking about proposals.

What are the advantages of joining the Law & History CRN?
We see our main contribution as encouraging connections among a broad range of scholars and drawing attention to the historical legal research presented at the annual conference. More specifically, we’re interested in putting together and publicizing legal history panels at the LSA annual meeting. If you have a paper you’d like to present, you can use the listserv to find other potential panelists; we can also use our access to the LSA website to help connect you with other relevant paper submissions. And if you’re planning a panel that seems relevant to legal historians, please let us know so that we can list it as a CRN panel (if you’re interested) and publicize it among our members.  Further, we can make connections with other CRNs, further increasing the potential audience for each panel. This year (our first year as a CRN) we had five panels designated as CRN panels, two of which were co-listed with other CRNs. Finally, the administrative advantage of affiliating your paper/panel with a CRN is that the CRN can request that up to four of CRN-affiliated panels be scheduled at different times to avoid conflicts.

Do I need to be a member of LSA to join the Law & History CRN?
No. We strongly encourage everyone who is presenting at LSA to also become a member, but all we’re asking you to do right now is sign up for the email announcements.

I’m not a legal historian/I’m not a historian – can I join?
Absolutely. LSA is about drawing connections across fields and methods. If you’re interested in legal history, or you’re using historical materials, or you’re looking to the past, and you’d like to present on a panel with other people interested in historical sources/methods/questions, we’d love to have you.

I’m already a member of the American Society for Legal History – why should I also attend LSA?
We are all enthusiastic ASLH participants, but the LSA annual meeting differs in a few important ways. First, it’s a large interdisciplinary meeting with substantial representation from sociology, political science, anthropology, economics, and other fields. It can thus be a great place to make connections, put together panels across disciplinary lines, and participate in interdisciplinary conversations. Second, since LSA traditionally accepts all paper and panel submissions, it provides a welcoming place for all scholars, especially graduate students who may find it difficult to get on the program at smaller conferences.  And third, we want to exchange ideas with scholars interested in legal history more than once a year.

How do I join?
Send an email with your contact information to any or all of us and we will make sure you are included.


Joanna Grisinger, Center for Legal Studies, Northwestern University

Kimberly Welch, Department of History, University of West Virginia

Logan Sawyer, University of Georgia Law School

Kathryn Schumaker, Institute for the American Constitutional Heritage, University of Oklahoma

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Prize winners announced at Osgoode Society AGM

The annual general meeting of the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History was held this evening at Osgoode Hall in Toronto. Thanks to the Law Society of Upper Canada for hosting the meeting and reception.

The president of the society, Roy McMurtry, chaired the meeting, the treasurer, C. Ian Kyer, reported on the society's finances, and the editor-in-chief, Jim Phillips reported on the publications for the year and the oral history project. The meeting was addressed by historian Chris Moore, whose history of the court of appeal for Ontario is the Society's members' book for 2014.

Two prizes were awarded (the Society's third prize, the John Saywell prize is awarded in alternate years.)

Congratulations to Peter Price, a doctoral student in history at Queen's University, who was awarded the prestigious R.Roy McMurtry Fellowship in Canadian Legal History for 2014-2015. The fellowship will support his research into the public careers of two late nineteenth/early twentieth century Toronto lawyers. Here's an excerpt from the winning proposal:
Lawyers and the Pursuit of “A More Healthy Public Feeling:” The Legal Careers of Edward Meek and Edward Douglas Armour

At the turn of the twentieth century, as immigration to Canada rapidly expanded and as the franchise grew to include more voting citizens, numerous legal professionals became preoccupied with the protection of what they saw as the “public good.” In many ways, the didactic mission of certain lawyers to safeguard particular visions of democracy became a defining element of legal culture in Canada at that time. Why did lawyers become prominent participants in efforts to improve civic and legal literacy? How did they define the idea of “public good”? How did they envision the role of law in supporting or defining ideas of public good?

To help answer these questions, this study will examine the careers of two prominent
Toronto-based lawyers, Edward Meek (1845-1925) and Edward Douglas Armour (1851-
1922), both of whom were prominent within the legal profession and in the wider public. In reaction to the increasing professionalization and specialization of law, they shared the belief that lawyers had a duty to reach out to public audiences. Their extensive public writings were motivated to a large degree by their belief that democracy and the rule of law depended on a citizenry informed on matters of law and constitutionalism. Using these two lawyers as case studies, this project will examine the relationship between legal professionals and the promotion of particular understandings of democracy and “public good.”

The Peter Oliver Prize for published work in Canadian legal history by a student was awarded to Mary Stokes for her chapter, "Grand Juries and 'Proper Authorities:' Low Law, Soft Law and Local Governance in Canada West/Ontario, 1850-1880, which appeared in  Essays in the History of Canadian Law volume 11, Quebec and the Canadas, edited by Donald Fyson and G.Blaine Baker.

Call for papers: Traditions, Borrowings, Innovations, & Impositions: Law in the Post-Colony and in Empire

From Shaunnagh Dorsett:

Call For Papers

“Traditions, Borrowings, Innovations, & Impositions: Law in the Post-Colony and in Empire.”

Following the 2012 Legal Histories of the British Empire Conference held in Singapore, please hold the date for the follow on comparative legal history up to be held at the Faculty of Law, University of Ghana, Accra, 2-4 July 2014.

Patterns of disruption and also networks of innovation, resistance, tradition, and imposition connect places touched by European Empires, including the British Empire from origins to the present. All aspects of law in history, law in society, and law in culture carry traces of this in local expression, as in comparative contexts.
The conference provides an opportunity for the sharing of research and ideas from all perspectives, regions, and periods including:

·       research on the constitutional, legal and institutional frameworks of the post-colony and colony;
·       the roles of law in social development, cultural transformation, and economic development;
·       legal pluralism;
·       post-colonial scholarship;
·       the internal cultures of law, of the judiciary,
·       the legal profession, and legal education;
·       the role of law in oppression or resistance, as
·       tool and as discourse;
·       autonomy, migrations, religions, and
·       indigeneity;
·       globalization and transnationalism;
·       comparative research.

A website will be available shortly, with full conference information. In the meantime, a pdf with additional information can be obtained from or