London Legal History Seminar 7 Dec. 2022

Following the successful re-launch of the London Legal History Seminars on 26 October, we have a second seminar this term on Wednesday, 7 December at 6 PM. Dr Andrew Watson will speak on ‘Jewish Emancipation in Nineteenth Century Britain : Francis Goldsmid; Barrister; Legislator; Human Rights Campaigner; Religious Reformer and Philanthropist’. His talk will be held in the Moot Court at Bentham House, UCL.

Further details – and the necessary advance registration – can be found at:

London Legal History Seminar 26 Oct. 2022

As meetings start to be in person again, it is worth noting the following meeting o the London legal history seminar

On 26 October 2022, at 18.00, Professor Han-Ru Zhou, Université de Montréal, will speak on ‘Power, Money and Merits: Legacies Abroad of A Century and A Half of The Case Method’. This talk examines the case method and pieces together the story of how Langdell’s brainchild was brought to the rest of the common law world in treading the momentous events and geopolitics of the last century and a half, and reflects on the lessons from this global experiment for the present and future of the case method.

The seminar will be held at IALS. Attendance is, of course, free but please do register on the IALS website –

Liberated Enslaved and St Helena

On 7 September, The Times reported the reburial of 325 enslaved Africans on St Helena. It is a story that can be traced through The Times. In the nineteenth century, St Helena was vital as a shipping station for the British Navy and Merchant Marine. The British Navy tried to intercept slaving ships taking enslaved Africans from the African continent, mainly to Brazil. Those liberated were taken to St Helena, and quarantined, where weak and distressed, many died. There was a Vice-Admiralty Court there that tried the (mainly Portuguese) slavers. Those liberated slaves who survived were relocated as free labourers, although some remained on the island. As individuals they came form all over Africa, but such genomic research as proved possible suggests that many of these men and women came from Mozambique and Angola, which is perhaps to be expected. See an Article in Nature. 

The European Society for Comparative Legal History’s Seventh Biennial Conference, 21 – 23 June 2023, University of Augsburg, Germany

The European Society for Comparative Legal History’s Seventh Biennial Conference, 21 – 23 June 2023, University of Augsburg, Germany.

The Organising Committee and the Executive Council of the European Society for Comparative Legal History are pleased to call for papers for the upcoming Society’s Seventh Biennial Conference to be held from 21 to 23 June 2023 at the University of Augsburg, Germany.
A conference in 2023 will be a change to our normal timing. We began in Valencia (2010), followed by Amsterdam (2012), Macerata (2014), Gda?sk (2016), Paris (2018), and most recently, after a delay caused by Covid, we enjoyed the event in Lisboa (2022). However, not only does that mean we did not have a conference for four years. Covid has also moved some other large international conferences now to even-numbered years. To avoid collision with these other conferences, the ESCHL conferences would after 2023 continue at two-year intervals moving them to uneven-numbered years. The offer from Augsburg was made some years ago, but kindly deferred and the Executive Council is delighted to be able to take it up now.
For the Augsburg event in 2023, there is no general conference theme. Rather, the organisers hope that the sessions will reflect – in terms of covered topics, time periods, and regions – the full breadth of international research in comparative legal history. The Organising Committee does so in the believe that the Society’s Biennial Conference should foremost be a platform for researchers to present their most recent research in comparative legal. Papers should address and explore doctrinal, theoretical, cultural, or methodological aspects of comparative legal history. Papers should also be comparative, covering at least two legal systems, as well as historical.
To offer a paper, please send an abstract of up to 400 words by 15 November 2022. Papers, and abstracts, should be in English. The abstract should give the title of your paper and your personal data (full name, email address, work affiliation). Please also send a short CV (no more than 4 pag-es). Everyone, at whatever stage in their research career can offer a paper. The application should be sent to: Abstracts will be assessed against: (1) the aim to have a diverse conference; (2) the novelty of the work; (3) the evidence of scholarly rigour and promise of a fully researched and referenced paper; (4) in order to allow as many people as possible to speak at the conference, a person may normally offer only one paper.
It is also possible to submit a proposal for a complete panel. Panels normally consist of three pa-pers. A panel proposal should – in addition to the abstracts and CVs of those who wish to present a paper in that panel – include an abstract for the entire panel as well as a CV of the panel organizer.

Applicants will be informed by 15 December 2022 whether their paper has been accepted. The conference programme will be published on 31 December 2022 on the conference website[, which] will also contain information on the attendance fee for those who are not members of the ESCLH, on transport to and from Augsburg, [and] on accommodation in Augsburg. [Registration will open, on the conference website, on 15 December 2022.] Finally, the conference will be preceded by an additional PhD-workshop on 21 June 2023. Further information about the workshop will also be published on 15 December 2022.

Book Launch: Law, Lordship and Tenure: The Fall of the Black Douglases

The Centre for Legal History invites you to the launch of Law, Lordship and Tenure: The Fall of the Black Douglases on 6th October, 2022. This will take lace in Teaching Room 1 in Old College, University of Edinburgh, at 17.30 to be followed by a reception in the Moot Court Room.

The book is authored by two very distinguished scholars, Professor Emeritus Hector Macqueen of Edinburgh and Dr Alan Borthwick of the National Records of Scotland. Over a number of years they have revolutionized our understanding of lordship, tenure and law in later mediaeval Scotland, both separately and in collaboration.

This book is a new interpretation of the fall of later medieval Scotland’s greatest noble family, the Black Douglases, in 1455. The discussion reaches back in time to over a century before, as the family began its rise to the pinnacle of Scottish society. The killing of William eighth earl of Douglas by King James II in 1452 receives particular attention, as also the way in which he, his brother James (his successor as earl), and their predecessors exercised their power and authority as earls and lords, and it is suggested that their identifiable failings in this provide the key to understanding the catastrophe that befell the family in 1455. The principal analytical tool is the law relevant to these events and the specific meaning and significance of the documents (which is often a legal question) that evidence them. It is argued that this form of analysis is at least as relevant as any more political approach and that ‘legal consciousness’ was a vital feature of Scottish noble society.

It is possible to participate by Zoom as well as in person. To participate by Zoom, see

About the authors
Alan Borthwick has been one of the archivist staff of the now National Records of Scotland for over 30 years, and in that time has worked in a variety of posts. He has been Head of the Private Records section since 2007. Alan was the lead curator for the NRS exhibition in 2005 at the Scottish Parliament when the Declaration of Arbroath was last publicly displayed. He was also lead curator for the two exhibitions of the “Wallace document” of 1300, at the Scottish Parliament (2012) and at Stirling Castle (2014). His PhD thesis, on the reign of King James II (1437-1460), was completed in 1989. He also contributed a number of articles to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004). Other contributions include “Montrose v Dundee and the Jurisdiction of Parliament and Council over Fee and Heritage in the Mid-Fifteenth Century”, Parliamentary History xv (1) (1996) 33-53 and “An Addition to Scotia Pontifica”, Innes Review xxxix (1) 61-64.

Hector MacQueen is Emeritus Professor of Private Law at the University of Edinburgh Law School, having previously been a member of staff from 1979 to 2021. He has worked on various aspects of Scottish legal history, especially in the medieval period, where his best-known work is Common Law and Feudal Society in Medieval Scotland (1993; reissued 2016). He also writes about ‘legal nationalism’ in Scotland and on the history of copyright. Hector is currently Vice-President of the Stair Society, having previously been its Literary Director 1999-2017. He is also a Fellow of the British Academy and of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, having been Vice-President (Humanities) of the latter 2008-2011. He is a Vice-President of the Scottish Text Society. He was awarded a CBE in the 2019 Birthday Honours list. Alan and Hector have previously co-authored a number of published articles, focussed mainly on mid-fifteenth century litigation.


Scottish Legal History Group 1 October, 2022

The Scottish Legal History Group will meet (in person) on Saturday 1st October in the Mackenzie Building in Old Assembly Close at 172 High Street, Edinburgh. Once again, we are very grateful to the Faculty of Advocates for kindly providing us with the venue for our gathering.   This promises the usual rich and innovative programme.

The outline of the programme is as follows:  

10am – Coffee  

10.30am – Dr John Davies (University of Glasgow) and Professor Alice Taylor (King’s College London), “Regiam Majestatem: The earliest known version” 

11.15am – Dr Alan Borthwick (National Records of Scotland) and Professor Hector MacQueen (University of Edinburgh), “Legal Consciousness in Later Medieval Scotland” 

12noon – AGM 

12.30pm – Break for refreshments 

2.30pm – Dr Leslie Dodd (University of Stirling), “1603 and All That: Thomas Craig and the Union of the Crowns” 

3.15pm – Dr Lorren Eldridge (University of Edinburgh), “Historical Jurisprudence as a Legal Method”  

4pm – Close 


If all those wishing to attend please inform the Secretary, Professor Andrew Simpson, in advance, as the Faculty of Advocates may request a list of those attending the event as it has done in past years, and also because we need an idea of numbers for coffee in the morning. Please either email Professor Simpson at or send him a note of your intention to attend in the post. This year, the conference fee will be £10, or £5 for students, as it was prior to the pandemic. Cheques should be made out to “The Scottish Legal History Group”, and can be posted to the following address:  

Scottish Legal History Group 

c/o Professor Andrew Simpson 

School of Law,  

Old College, 

University of Edinburgh,  

South Bridge,  


National Records of Scotland

Many visitors to this Blog will be aware of the continuing restriction on access to the National Records of Scotland. This morning the NRS issue dates following statement:

“From Monday 24 October, we are removing the requirement to book seats in advance to visit our Historical Search Room.

We will also begin increasing the number of people who can use the search room at the same time.

The current seat booking request queue will close at the end of August and we will allocate seats to those who have already made bookings. If you have submitted an enquiry or seat booking request, there is no need to contact us again: we will contact you over the coming weeks to arrange your visit.

Records labelled “Off-site” in the online NRS catalogue will be available to order from Monday 24 October at least 48 hours in advance of your visit.

We are working on plans to resume our copying and printing services and will provide further information in due course.

Thank you for your continued patience while we work through this transition period.

We still strongly encourage the wearing of face coverings in communal spaces or when moving around our buildings and recommend continued hand-hygiene and distancing.”


Thesis welcome news.

A. V. Dicey, 1835-1922: Event Oxford, 3-4 October, 2022

Alfred Venn Dicey was born in 1835 into the complex network of kinship that Lord Annan understandably described as Victorian Intellectual Aristocracy. He died in 1922. He was yet another Victorian valetudinarian who had a long life. He is, of course, famous for his Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution, first published in 1885, three years after he returned to Oxford as Vinerian Professor.

To mark the centenary of his death, All Souls College and St Catherine’s College in Oxford are organizing a small seminar see

It will be as follows:


Panel 1

Dicey and the Constitution 

Chair:            Dr Thomas Adams (Oxford)


Professor Mark Walters (Queen’s University, Ontario)

Professor Alison Young (Cambridge)

Dr Hasan Dindjer (Oxford)

3:15pm Coffee

Panel 2

Dicey in his Time and in Our Time 

Chair:            Professor John Allison (Cambridge)


Professor John Cairns (Edinburgh)

Professor Timothy Endicott (Oxford)

Professor Aileen Kavanagh (Trinity College, Dublin)                           

5:00pm Close/Drinks
  Exhibition of Dicey manuscripts and other material – All Souls Library


Tuesday 4th October (St Catherine’s College)

8:30am Coffee/Pastries                                                               

Panel 3

Dicey and the Conflict of Laws

Chair:            Professor Jonathan Harris QC


Lord Collins of Mapesbury

Dr Roxana Banu (Queen Mary, University of London)           

Professor Andrew Dickinson (Oxford)

10:45am Coffee

Panel 4

Dicey and Political Thought

Chair:           TBC


Dr Marc Mulholland (Oxford)

Professor Sally Bushell (Lancaster)

Dr James Kirby (10 Old Square)

1:00pm Close/Sandwich Lunch
  [Afternoon (Subject to Confirmation): Optional Walking tour of Dicey’s Oxford]

British Legal History Conference, Belfast, 6-9 July 2022


Over four hot and sunny days, the British Legal History Conference, in association with the Irish Legal History Society, enjoyed the hospitality of the Queen’s University and City of Belfast. The theme of the conference was “Law and Constitutional Change”, perhaps not inappropriate given the Republic of Ireland’s Decade of Anniversaries, and current fast-changing debates and politics in the United Kingdom: indeed it briefly looked as if a constitutional crisis might loom in the U.K. on one of the days of the conference.

The decision had been made to postpone the conference, original scheduled for 2021, to 2022, due to Covid. This was wise. We are all now familiar with the way large conferences do not work well on line, and with the technical complexities, failures, and psychological oddities caused by attempts at hybrid conferences. The postponement had the happy result that this was the fiftieth anniversary of the first conference, held at Aberystwyth in 1972.

It was a busy conference; not everyone was ultimately able to make it because of the issue of covid and problems with air travel, but well over 150 people were there. My impression was that, though there were members from continental Europe, Australia, and North America, there were not as many from those regions as normal; but this was just an impression, and may be wrong. The size of the Conference meant that some of the five sessions had four or three separate panels, with each panel having three to four presentations. Thus, a wealth of research was on display, testifying, above all, to the liveliness of legal history in Britain and Ireland. It is impossible to discuss individual papers, other than those I personally attended, so I shall forbear. But there were no fewer than six excellent plenary sessions. At one Lady Hale reflected on the Human Rights Act; at another Sir John Baker discussed “The Origins of Judicial Review”, while later Professor Ian McBride of Oxford discussed “Irish Catholics and the Plenary Laws”; Professor Lauren Benton (Yale) gave a presentation on “Law and Armed Peace in the British Empire”. The sixth plenary was a panel discussion at the end of the conference. I shall single out the fascinating fourth plenary presentation by Dr Timothy Murtagh because of its wide implications. His title was “Beyond 2022”. As well known to all historical scholars, on 30 June 1922, as the Irish Civil War opened, the Public Record office of Ireland was destroyed. The project “Beyond 2022” is a virtual, digital recreation of the Office and its contents, drawn together from copies archived elsewhere. This was fascinating, and gives an indication of what can be done.

The evening of the opening day of the Conference included a visit to the very grand City Hall of Belfast for a reception generously sponsored by the Journal of Legal History and various legal professional bodies. On the next evening there was a trip to see the spectacular parliament buildings at Stormont, with a generous buffet and reception sponsored by Carson McDowell, solicitors in Belfast. As well as wandering round the grand 1920s and 1930s classical building, there was a fascinating talk by Professor Margaret O’Callaghan, essentially another, if short, plenary presentation. Her topic was “January to June 1922: James Craig and the Consolidation of Partition”. It was an interesting reflection on the tensions and drama in the north in this period.

The final full day of the conference closed with a reception in the “Old Library” now a graduate student centre, followed by dinner in the Great Hall. If I can be permitted a personal note, the “Old Library” was for a while the Special Collections section of the Queen’s University Library. It was there that I first held a book once owned by Adam Smith, as Queen’s University holds a substantial portion of his library (the other parts are in Tokyo and Edinburgh).

The conference was magnificently organized, and the main credit must go to Professor Emeritus Norma Dawson of QUB; but, as she would admit, this was a collaborative affair and credit must also go to various others, including Dr David Capper, Dr Conor McCormick, Dr Niamh Howlin, and Mr John Gordon, who also served when necessary as an enthusiastic M.C. One of the main drivers in bringing the BLHC to Belfast had been the late Sir Anthony (always known as Tony) Hart, who died in 2019. See He was very much in the minds of those at the Conference and he was suitably remembered and commemorated. Lady Hart was present and graciously presented awards for the best papers given by research students. In the face of tough competition, that judged the best was by Ashley Hannay, who is taking up a post at Manchester having completed a thesis at Cambridge; but your blogger is proud to claim he supervised Ashley’s LLM dissertation on conciliar courts in Edinburgh a few years ago.

Finally, the city itself was rather a star. With its magnificent setting at the head of the Lough, surrounded by hills, and with its grand buildings it looked wonderful in the July sunshine. Around the University, in what’s now known as the University Quarter, are beautiful brick terraces of Victorian houses in Georgian survival style, many trees, and the Botanic Gardens. It created a relaxed and beautiful setting.

The photos below are mainly courtesy of Professor Mark Godfrey of Glasgow and with some by me.



Around Queen’s University & Some Conference Goers

The Great Hall







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