Loyal Dogs, and Dogs and Law

Dogs are proverbially loyal. Many traditional stories emphasise this. Odysseus’ dog Argos recognised his master after all his years away, after waiting for him to return to Ithaca. In Edinburgh, major tourist attractions are the statue and grave of Greyfriars Bobby, a Skye terrier that visited his master’s grave every day for fourteen years. The same story of the dog loyal after death is found all around the world in many versions. For example, it recently found a film representation in the Australian movie, “Red Dog” (the novel that influenced the movie is rather different).

The Japanese “Greyfriars Bobby” is Hachikō, an Akita. Hachikō was the dog of Professor Hidesaburō Ueno, Professor of Agriculture at the University of Tokyo. Professor Ueno commuted to work by train, and the dog developed the practice of going to meet him at the railway station on his return. One day, however, Professor Ueno died suddenly on campus and did not return. Thereafter for the nine years until his own death Hachikō would go to the station to wait for the Professor. While Greyfriars Bobby has but one statue, commissioned by Baroness Burdett-Coutts, Hachikō has had several. One was commissioned during his own life; though destroyed for the metal to support the Japanese War effort, a replacement was commissioned after the War, and it stands at the station. Another statue stands outside the Akita dog museum, and, as the dog was born in Ōdate, a further outside its station. An American film version of the story led to a copy at the US railway station where the American movie was filmed. Photographs of photographs of Hachikō also survive, as even does a recording of his bark. And a statue of Hachikō, this time with the Professor, was unveiled by the Tokyo Faculty of Agriculture in 2015, to mark the eightieth anniversary of the death of the dog. The statue stands just inside the No-seimon (gate) of the University of Tokyo’s Hongo Campus, in which the Faculty of Agriculture is situated.

But the fidelity of the dog has a legal-historical interest. The study of legal iconography shows how the fidelity of the dog has been harnessed for a wider significance in law. In Dutch art of the Golden Age dogs feature regularly, fulfilling a variety of symbolic functions, depending on their role in the picture, again, for example, often as symbols of faithfulness. Dogs are also regularly depicted in court rooms in seventeenth-century Dutch art. According to M. A. Becker-Moelands, these portrayals can have two purposes, depending both on where the dogs are situated, and with whom they are associated in the image. They can serve as a symbol of fidelity and reliability, or they can be a symbol of the openness of justice, as they have been able to wander into the court room.

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Legitimacy of Mary Queen of Scots

It is interesting to see that today, 10 May 2018, The Scotsman (p. 3) has an astonishing scoop: James V was not the father of Mary Queen of Scots, but instead it was Murdo Mackenzie! Ilona Amos has written that Fairburn Tower “was built in 1545 for Murdo Mackenzie, a close aide of King James V and father of Mary Queen of Scots.” Given that her current Majesty’s right to the throne derives from the legitimacy of Mary, Queen of Scots as great-grandmother of Sophia, Electress of Hanover, this revelation potentially rocks the foundation of the throne. Could this be a treasonous allegation? Or is it simply poor editing?

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VE Day

Today, 8 May, is VE Day, which seems to be being generally ignored in the British media. Of course the war against Japan continued. There is a major commemoration in Paris.

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A change for the better?

Many of us teaching in Scottish law schools will have received a recent email from the Law Society of Scotland announcing a series of planned discussions with various stakeholders about the content of the law degree and the diploma in professional legal practice. On balance, a proactive Law Society is an excellent Law Society as it ensures that those undertaking legal training are equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to become fully-fledged members of the legal profession in its various forms. The task of the Law Society is not an easy one, however, and, given the sheer diversity of the profession, it must be difficult selecting future priorities. In the latest round of proposed discussions, three topics are worthy of comment:

1. Legal technology. The nub of this part of the proposal is to investigate whether the current levels of “technology skills” across the degree and diploma are too “generic” and could/should be changed. Of course, this is in a sense “blue sky and apple pie”, since no one could argue against the position that the lawyers of the future will be required to make greater use of technology. But technology can never replace a sound and critical knowledge of the law, no matter which database one has access to or how sophisticated one’s word processing programme might be (not that this is being suggested of course). To understand the law, one must have the skills not only to find the law but also to process it intellectually using one’s knowledge of certain rules and procedures learnt through a period. Greater use of technology can, of course, assist with and improve upon this process but it is not an end in itself. It certainly can never replace “black-letter law” in a degree.

2. Critical non-black letter law skills. While the current configuration of the degree and the diploma deals with skills extensively, this proposal suggests that other matters (e.g. “project management”) could be added. Again, it is difficult to argue against this since skills are important. But what these “critical non-black letter law skills” are, for example, and on whose judgement certain skills will be judged to be “critical”, remain open to question. One might ask, for example, whether “project management” is something that everyone needs and whether, in light of the requirement of CPD, this could not be offered in a more targeted fashion. Perhaps rather than focusing on “critical skills”  disassociated from “black-letter law”, more attention should be given to the “critical black-letter law skills” that law students require. Based on nearly two decades of law teaching, my view is that law students need a. More time to think; b. More time to write and more opportunities to develop their writing; and c. Better research skills (not merely the use of databases). To understand the law, one cannot just learn it by rote or hope to find it by plugging some keywords into a database. Whichever belief one holds about the nature of law, it cannot be denied that law is about argumentation and that much of it plays out across the pages of books, articles, and court decisions. Critical reflection on arguments pro and contra are required. This takes time. Of course, one might argue that the aim of a law degree is to form lawyers who apply the law rather than jurists who reflect upon the law critically, but these two aims cannot and should not ever be mutually exclusive. The best lawyers are those who can reflect on the law critically when applying it.

3. Other matters. According to the email from the Law Society: “Some have suggested that as we move towards exiting the European Union that this should see an increased focus on language skills, trade law, international arbitration, private international law etc.” These topics of discussion are to be welcomed, since they represent attempts, at the very least, to maintain relations with our European neighbours post Brexit. There is, however, one topic which is sadly lacking from this list, namely legal history (both Scottish and European). In a country with such a rich history of intellectual exchange in the field of law with our continental neighbours (especially via Roman law), it is regrettable that the Law Society does not view legal history as a priority, especially during this time. Of course, a professional regulatory authority is primarily concerned with equipping lawyers with up-to-date knowledge of the law, but in an uncodified legal system such as that of Scotland, knowledge of what the law is cannot be separated from knowledge of what the law was. To any student of law, Scottish or otherwise, the past is never “… a foreign country” (L.P. Hartley). And few people today still believe that “history is just one damn thing after another” (whoever the author of this quotation may be). The past changes regularly and is therefore in continuous dialogue with the present. As such, one suspects the time has come for legal history to form a more critical part of the curriculum, rather than merely as an elective at honours level or as a few sparse comments on Institutional Authority in a first-year survey course. No one can, of course, deny that the study of history is both ideological and political. But it is precisely these features that make the study of history, and legal history in particular, so much more critical as we head towards Brexit and beyond.

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Slavery in France and its Colonies

Slavery was abolished in the French colonies in 1848. This year, therefore is the 170th anniversary of this event. As citizens of a former colonial country, the French have been conscious in recent years of the history of slavery in there colonies, and some interesting works have been written on many aspects of the topic. This blogger is very interested in the position of individuals enslaved in the colonies brought to Europe. Two excellent works on this in France are Pierre H. Boulle, Race et esclavage dans la France de l’Ancien Régime (2007) and Sue Peabody, “There are no Slaves in France”: The Political Culture of Race and Slavery in the Ancien Régime (1996). (It is important to remember that slavery implicated most European states, and an interesting biography has recently been published of a runaway Danish slave who ended up in Iceland: Gisli Palsson, The Man Who Stole Himself: The Slave Odyssey of Hans Jonathan (2016).) There are also several editions of the famous Code Noir of 1685.

What prompts this blog entry in the announcement today by Emmanuel Macron of the establishment of a “Fondation pour la mémoire de l’esclavage”, which will be situated in the Hôtel de la Marine, where the decree abolishing slavery was signed. The body will have a wide remit, both scholarly and otherwise. There was also a special ceremony at the Panthéon. A special memorial will be erected in the gardens of the Tuilleries, in Paris. Some groups have also called for a museum of slavery.


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Some curious Scottish Legal MSS

The Law Book Exchange is currently offering for sale two Scottish legal MSS. Both reveal something about the nineteenth-century lives of Scots from different social backgrounds

The first consists of papers from H.M.A. v. Hunter & Mackie. These were papers from a trail at a Circuit Court at Glasgow in 1818 before David Douglas, Lord Reston, best known to history as the heir of Adam Smith, who supervised his education, and whose splendid library Douglas inherited. The panels were prosecuted for theft and reset of wheels of cheese. The descriptions states there were three horizontal fold lines – no doubt indicating these had been the papers of one of the lawyers involved, who had fielded then the traditional way and tied them with red tape! At some stage someone has bound them together. Search through newspapers and the NRS might cause more information to emerge. 1818 is an interesting year, however, because of anxieties about combinations and sedition.

The second MSS was prepared by lawyers for the trustees of a complicated estate. The estate was that of a Scot, Major General John Ogilvie (1783-1847), who had served in the Madras Army of the East India Company. He died without issue but leaving a widow and several siblings. A fight then commenced over the property left. This is not an unfamiliar story for any lawyer; but the papers contain considerable detail about the financial affairs of a Scots officer in India, and his progressive accumulation of wealth through his career, investing, for example, in the shares of banks in Bombay. They must contain considerable insight about the history of Scotland and the Empire in the nineteenth century. The litigation concluded only in 1870 in the Inner House of the Court of Session.


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What’s Happening in Black British History VIII

The Agenda has just been announced for “What’s Happening Black British History VIII”, to be held at the University of Huddersfield on Thursday 10th May, jointly organized by the Institute of Commonwealth Studies and the University. The agenda is as follows:

What’s Happening in Black British History? VIII
Workshop Agenda
10:00 Registration

10:30 Welcome
Sue Onslow Acting Director of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies

10:40 Session One Black ‘visitors’ to Britain

Chair Miranda Kaufmann

‘The Honour of the Nation’: Black Prisoners of War at Portchester Castle, 1793-1814
Abigail Coppins (English Heritage)
‘With Almost Electric Speed’: Mapping Black Abolitionists in Britain
Hannah Rose Murray (University of Nottingham)
The “English Inning” of Claude McKay, Transnational Writer and Socialist
Owen Walsh (University of Leeds)

12:00 Coffee Break

12:15 Session Two Black British History on stage

Chair Michael Ohajuru

Reflections on Black Men Walking
Testament (writer, rapper and world record holding beatboxer)
Movement of the People: A journey through the development of Windrush: Performance and people
Sharon Watson (Phoenix Dance Theatre)
Pablo Fanque: pomp, pageantry and race in Victorian Circus
Joe Williams (University of Leeds, Heritage Corner, Leeds)

13:30 Lunch

14:30 Session Three Black British History in Yorkshire
Chair Tosh Warwick

Here From Time: Stories from Yorkshire’s Black History.
Audrey Dewjee (Independent researcher, Diasporian Stories Research Group)
Soldiers of African origin in British Army Regiments in England and Yorkshire, 1700s to 1840s.
John Ellis (Historian and Teacher)
British-born African Caribbean descendants in West Yorkshire, navigating race and identity from the 1960s to present
Milton Brown (University of Huddersfield, Kirklees Local TV)
My Search For Black British History: Black Americans In Victorian Huddersfield
Jeffrey Green (Independent Historian)

16:00 Coffee Break

16:15 Colonial Countryside: Reinterpreting English Country Houses
Corinne Fowler (University of Leicester)

Session Four The musical legacies of slavery in Britain
Chair Paul Ward

Blackface minstrelsy and Black Studies
Rachel Cowgill (University of Huddersfield)
The Use of the Profits of Slavery to Support Musical Activity in Eighteenth-century Britain and its Colonies
David Hunter (University of Texas at Austin)
Tiger Bay and the roots/routes of black British Jazz
Catherine Tackley (University of Liverpool)

17:40 Reception/ Opening of Let’s Play Vinyl Exhibition

For registration: https://commonwealth.sas.ac.uk/events/event/15639

See also http://www.mirandakaufmann.com/blog/agenda-announced-for-whats-happening-in-black-british-history-viii-at-the-university-of-huddersfield

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Some Court Houses of New South Wales

British colonisation of the interior of New South Wales required crossing the Blue Mountains from the Cumberland Plain on which much of the metropolitan area of Sydney lies. This was eventually achieved in 1813 by Blaxland, Wentworth, and Lawson during the dynamic governorship of the Scottish-born Lachlan Macquarie. The hope was for new pastureland. Even now, driving on a modern highway, one can understand the difficulties faced in pushing through the wooded terrain with its ravines and steep gorges. The first stock was taken though in 1815, leading to the European settlement of the Bathurst Plains.

It is not the aim of this Blog to enter into the current controversies over the colonisation of Australia. It is clear that the colonial government was keen to exercise  and be seen to exercise control and to provide law and order, particularly given the convict system. The aim was quickly to move from military to civilian control. Courts administered justice and court houses were statements of government power and authority. Your Blogger recently was in New South Wales and for the first time followed the route all the way through he mountains to the Bathurst plains. On this route one comes across the old colonial settlement of Hartley. Long bypassed by history (and, most importantly, by the Victorian railway), it preserves a feel of the early- to mid-nineteenth century, with a beautiful church, a presbytery for the priests and some other old buildings of considerable charm, all in the most beautiful setting. One of those surviving is a most beautiful Greek revival court house, a building of considerable sophistication, built of yellow sandstone. It was designed by the famous colonial architect, Mortimer Lewis, and completed in 1837. Its elegance is emphasised by its isolated rural setting. It was in use for government and justice for only fifty years, however, as development took place elsewhere, as the Hartley Valley was bypassed by the railway.  It was this that preserved the tiny settlement. Before the end of the nineteenth century, it had already become a stop for tourists, as part of a nostalgic Australian past.

The major administrative centre for the area is the historic town of Bathurst, with its elegant centre based round a square. Ranged round a court, with one side open to the square, are some government buildings completed in 1880, of which the most important is the court house, which has an imposing dome. Facing each other, are the old post and telegraph offices, placed as wings to the court house, creating a large cour d’honneur. It is most impressive, and on a grand scale. It definitely expresses the power and authority the colonial government. The architectural style is described as Federation Free Classical, though this would make it a very early example of this style. Your blogger thought its details rather reminiscent of the buildings of Greek (Alexander) Thomson – Holmwood House grown to a giant scale, for example. But this may be no more than to say that the original architect, the Scots-born, colonial government architect, James Barnet, and Thomson were near contemporaries. It is very grand indeed, but lacks the classical purity and elegance of Lewis’s Hartley court house. But it is definitely a statement of power and authority.



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Two Scottish Books of Interest

Your blogger likes to torture himself by looking at catalogues of rare and antiquarian books. The catalogues often contain material of great interest, however, and have indeed resulted in a few blog entries about items and provenance.

Your blogger has just noticed in the recent online antiquarian catalogue of the Lawbook Exchange two works of significant Scottish interest. The first is the most important. It is a first edition of Sir George Mackenzie’s work, Pleadings in Some Remarkable Cases before the Supreme Courts of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1672). Your blogger has always been interested in Mackenzie, one of the most important legal figures in Scottish history, a man with a rare brilliance. As your blogger has argued elsewhere, this work, with the author’s Idea eloquentiae forensis hodiernae and Oratio on the inauguration of the Advocates Librarypresent an important ideological account of what it is to be an advocate. The special interest of the copy offered for sale into catalogue is that it was once the property of  Henry Home, Lord Kames, an observation which raises a number questions. See the online catalogue of March 20, 2018 (book number 67909): see https://www.lawbookexchange.com/

The other book of Scottish interest in the Catalogue (book number 13950) is a New York edition of the The Trial of Thomas Muir (New York, 1794). The evident ignorance of your blogger meant he was surprised to discover that this work had been printed in New York in 1794. Muir, for long an obscure though extremely interesting figure, has in recent years been rediscovered as a hero of the Scottish left. He is one of those individuals who can be reinvented for a variety of differing purposes. He has recently been claimed, for example, as “the father of Scottish democracy”, which is, I suppose a matter of opinion even though one can think of more likely candidates for such an unhistorical role, and, rather improbably, as a Nationalist. The New York imprint testifies to his significance  in his own day, though the print is intriguingly by Samuel Campbell of Hanover Square. Campbell was a native of Scotland;  in 1794 he sent a copy of this edition to George Washington at the request of Muir himself. Washington’s copy was still in his Library at his death: see https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/05-15-02-0498 – alas this copy for sale is not it!


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Black Tudors

In 2007, the anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade within the British Empire led both to self-congratulation and blame. But it had the effect of stimulating considerable research into the British relationship to slavery. One event that year was the launch of the Oxford Companion to Black British History at a relatively lavish party at the House of Lords, hosted on behalf of OUP by Baroness Scotland, barrister and politician. Your blogger had contributed to the Companion and attended what was a rather splendid party and drank a great deal of champagne. The party was replete with the great and the good in the field, as well as many lesser mortals such as your blogger. It was a thoroughly enjoyable event, and a worthy launch of an important collection.

At that party, your blogger had the pleasure of meeting Miranda Kaufmann, another contributor, then working on her doctorate at Oxford. Miranda was clever, enthusiastic, and charming, and your blogger thoroughly enjoyed meeting her, and has met her again from time to time when she has visited Edinburgh for research or to give a paper. She has now published a book based on her D.Phil. and on further research., entitled Black Tudors: The Untold Story (London: Oneworld, 2017). In this book, many myths about black people in England in the Tudor period are refuted. The author shows explores the lives of a number of black Tudors of both sexes who were sailors, weavers, and those living quiet ordinary lives; but these were not men and women as victims, but individuals living out their lives, marrying, raising families, making wills, testifying in courts of law, and, in one instance, whipping, with impunity, a white Englishman in the hall of a manor house.

The book is accessible (ignore the fact it originated in a doctoral thesis), informative, and with significant implications. It is to be recommended. See http://www.blacktudors.com


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