The Centre for Legal History is delighted to announce that the University of Edinburgh has appointed two of the United Kingdom’s leading legal historians as Honorary Professors in the School of Law with effect from 1 September, 2018. These are Professor Norma Dawson CBE of the Queen’s University, Belfast and Professor Catharine MacMillan of King’s College, London. Neither will be strangers to regular readers of this Blog; both have a distinguished international reputation and profile.
Professor Dawson has served as President, Vice-President, and Literary Editor of the the Irish Legal History Society, and has published extensively in the area of legal history, while she is also a distinguished intellectual property lawyer. Her modern and historical interests converge. She is in the process of completing a modern history of the Law of Treasure. She has had extensive experience of postgraduate supervision, and is much in demand to serve in panels and bodies concerned with legal education and matters of intellectual and historical significance. She has also had extensive community involvement She has held research grants and fellowships from the British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust. A graduate of the Queens’ University she has passed her academic career in her alma mater. An Honorary Bencher of the Inn of Court of Northern Ireland, she had the honour of CBE conferred on her by Her Majesty in 2017.
Professor MacMillan is a graduate of the Victoria University and the Queen’s University, both in Canada, and of the University of Cambridge, England. Her work has hitherto had three-interlinked main themes – the law of contract, the history of the law of contract, and the life and work of Judah P. Bejamin. The latter was a lawyer in Louisiana, who became Attorney General and then Secretary of State of the Confederacy, and then had a distinguished career at the English bar. She has an interest in colonial and transatlantic issues. With extensive experience in PhD supervsion, she has taught in England at Queen Mary, London, and the University of Reading, before taking up her current chair. She has been in much demand and has given extensive service and professional engagement related to her research fields.
It is worth noticing some interesting parallels and differences between the universities of these two new Honorary Professors. The Queen’s University of Belfast was once a constituent College of the Queen’s University of Ireland, founded in 1845 to promote the education of Catholics and Presbyterians in Ireland, who could not attend Trinity College, Dublin, because of its religious requirements. The Queen’s University of Ireland also included the Queen’s Colleges of Cork and Galway. In 1908, by Act of Parliament, the two latter became colleges of the new National University of Ireland, and Queen’s, Belfast became an independently chartered, still non-demoninational, university. The Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario (where Professor MacMillan gained her law degree), was chartered in 1841, in what was then Upper Canada, as Queen’s College, to provide an educational institution for Presbyterians in the area. Earlier, Upper Canada had been officially Anglican, and the many Scots Presbyterians in the Province sought a college for the education of their future ministers and youth more generally. Queen’s remained linked with the Presbyterian Church until 1912, when, like its Belfast cousin, it became non-denominational and was renamed Queen’s University at Kingston.
The creation of these two institutions is part of the complex story the spread of university education in the United Kingdom in the nineteenth century (one thinks of the great English civic universities, notably the London Colleges), some of which were also once constituent parts of a federal Victoria University, though they tend to have been founded somewhat later than the two Queen’s Universities. There are some institutions in Canada that can claim much earlier heritage, of course. Similar patterns can be found in other major colonies or dominions of the former British Empire.