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Monday, May 3, 2021

Call for applications: McMurtry Fellowship in Legal History and Peter Oliver Prize for published student work


The Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History administers two awards. The deadline for each of these awards for 2021 is May 31, 2021. The details follow.

R. Roy McMurtry Fellowship in Legal History
The R. Roy McMurtry Fellowship in Legal History was created in 2007, on the occasion of the retirement as Chief Justice of Ontario of the Hon. R. Roy McMurtry. It honours the contribution to Canadian legal history of Roy McMurtry, Attorney-General and Chief Justice of Ontario, founder of the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History and for many years the Society's President.
The fellowship of $16,000 is to support graduate (preferably doctoral) students or those with a recently completed doctorate, to conduct research in Canadian legal history, for one year. Scholars working on any topic in the field of Canadian legal history are eligible. Applicants should be in a graduate programme at an Ontario University or, if they have a completed doctorate, be affiliated with an Ontario University.
The fellowship may be held concurrently with other awards for graduate study. Eligibility is not limited to history and law programmes; persons in cognate disciplines such as criminology or political science may apply, provided the subject of the research they will conduct as a McMurtry fellow is Canadian legal history. The selection committee may take financial need into consideration. Applications will be assessed by a committee appointed by the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History.

Those interested in the 2021-2022 fellowship should apply by sending a full c.v. and a statement of the research they would conduct as a McMurtry fellow to Amanda Campbell, McMurtry Fellowship Selection Committee, Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, Osgoode Hall, 130 Queen Street West, Toronto, M5H 2N6, or by email to
The deadline for applications is May 31, 2021.
Peter Oliver Prize in Canadian Legal History
The Peter Oliver Prize in Canadian Legal History was established by the Society in 2006 in honour of Professor Peter Oliver, the Society's founding editor-in-chief. The prize is awarded annually for published work (journal article, book chapter, book) in Canadian legal history written by a student.
Students in any discipline at any stage of their careers are eligible. The Society takes a broad view of legal history, one that includes work in socio-legal history, legal culture, etc., as well as work on the history of legal institutions, legal personnel, and substantive law.
Students may self-nominate their published work, and faculty members are also encouraged to nominate student work of which they are aware. Those nominating their own work should send a copy of it to the Society.
The deadline for nominations for the 2021 Prize, to be awarded for work published in 2020, is May 31, 2021.
Please send nominations to Amanda Campbell, Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, Osgoode Hall, 130 Queen Street West, Toronto, M5H 2N6, or to

Jim Phillips
Editor-in-Chief, The Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History

Monday, March 8, 2021

Happy International Women's Day!

 Did you know....the Osgoode Society has numerous books and oral histories that focus on women and the law. Here are a just a few of the former:

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Black History Month! Read up on the history of race and the law in Canada

The Osgoode Society has published several books and articles on the historical experience of blacks and other racialized groups in the Canadian legal system. Here's a partial list by author:

Backhouse, Constance, Colour-Coded: A Legal History of Racism in Canada, 1900-1950 (1999). See particularly chapters 6 and 7: ‘It will be quite an Object Lesson: R. v. Phillips and the Ku Klax Klan in Oakville, Ontario, 1930,’ and ‘Bitterly Disappointed at the Spread of Colour Bar Tactics: Viola Desmond’s Challenge to Racial Segregation, Nova Scotia, 1950.’ 

Backhouse, Constance, ‘Your Conscience will be your own punishment: The Racially Motivated Murder of Gus Ninham, Ontario, 1902,’ in G. Blaine Baker and Jim Phillips, eds., Essays in the History of Canadian Law Volume VIII (1999) 

Brode, Patrick, The Odyssey of John Anderson (1989) 

Fyson, Donald, ‘Minority Groups and the Law in Quebec,’ in G. Blaine Baker and Donald Fyson, eds., Essays in the History of Canadian Law Volume 11: Quebec and the Canadas (2013) 

Girard, Philip, Jim Phillips and Blake Brown, A History of Law in Canada Volume 1: Beginnings to 1866 (2018). See particularly chapter 12, ‘Slavery, Race and the Constitution’, and chapter 31, ‘Less Favoured by Law: Blacks and Workers.’ 

Miller, Bradley, Borderline Crime: Fugitive Criminals and the Challenge of the Border (2016). See particularly chapter 5, ‘The Non-Law of Refugees in British North America.’ 

Murray, David, Colonial Justice: Justice, Morality, and Crime in the Niagara District, 1791-1849 (2002). See particularly chapter 10, ‘Hand Across the Border,’ about an ex-slave extradition case. 

Luce, Frank and Karen Schucher, ‘The Right to Discriminate: Kenneth Bell vs Carl Mackay and the Ontario Human Rights Commission,’ in Eric Tucker, James Muir and Bruce Ziff, eds., Property on Trial: Canadian Cases in Context (2012) 

Walker, Barrington, ed., The African-Canadian Legal Odyssey: Historical Essays (2012) 

Walker, Barrington, Race on Trial: Black Defendants in Ontario’s Criminal Courts, 1858-1958 (2010) 

Walker, James W., Race, Rights and the Law in the Supreme Court of Canada: Historical Case Studies (1997). See particularly chapter 3, ‘Christie v York Corporation,’ and chapter 4, ‘Noble and Wolf v. Alley.’

Details on how to purchase available at or email Amanda Campbell <>

Legal Histories of Empire: Second Symposium (via Zoom, March 4/5, 2021)

Notice from Shaunnagh Dorsett (

Legal Histories of Empire: Second Symposium

Join us for the second of several symposia planned for 2020 and 2021 for Legal Histories of Empire.

Our speakers:

Lisa Ford: 'The King's Colonial Peace: Variable subjecthood and the transformation of empire'

This paper is drawn from my forthcoming book, The King's Peace: Empire and Order in the British Empire. The book uses colonial peacekeeping as a lens through which to examine the shifting parameters of crown prerogative in Empire in the Age of Revolutions. This paper will argue that the legal vulnerability of (and often threats to order posed by) a diverse array of subjects - formerly French Catholics in Quebec, Caribbean slaves and NSW convicts - both prompted and justified the unravelling of the very idea of the freeborn Englishman that had been mobilised by protestant Britons in pre-revolutionary America.

Lisa Ford is Professor of History at the University of New South Wales, Australia. Her major publications include Settler Sovereignty: Jurisdiction and Indigenous People in America and Australia, 1788-1836 (2010) which won the Littleton-Griswold Prize (American Historical Association); the Thomas J. Wilson Prize (Harvard University Press); and the Premiers History Award (NSW). She is also co-author of Rage for Order: The British Empire and the Origins of International Law, 1800-1850 (co-authored with Lauren Benton, 2016) and author of The King’s Peace, which will be published by Harvard later this year. Ford is currently leading a collaborative project funded by the Australian Research Council exploring the role of commissions of inquiry sent throughout the British Empire in the 1820s on which subject she hopes to lead author a book manuscript this year. She also holds a four-year ARC Future Fellowship, during which she will explore the changing use of martial law in the British Empire from the late eighteenth century until 1865.

Jessica Hinchy: 'Child Removal and the Colonial Governance of the Family: Hijra and "Criminal Tribe" Households in North India, c. 1865-1900'

Historians have primarily examined colonial child removal projects in settler colonial contexts. Yet from 1865, the colonial government in north India forcibly removed children from criminalised communities. Child separation began in the households of gender non-conforming people labelled ‘eunuchs,’ particularly Hijras, and eventually extended to socially marginalised people designated as ‘criminal tribes,’ especially Sansiyas. First, what does a comparison of these child removal schemes tell us about the colonial governance of the family? Patrilineal, conjugal and reproductive household models marginalised Hijras and Sansiyas in differing ways, while the category of ‘child’ was contingently defined. Child separation was attempted to varying ends, including both elimination and assimilation. Yet often, the colonial state could not sustain such intensified forms of intimate governance in the face of resistance from households. Nor could officials simply determine removed children’s futures. Second, what does child removal suggest about the making of colonial law? When children were initially removed from Hijra and Sansiya households, officials admitted that ‘the law may have been somewhat strained,’ since existing laws did not provide police or magistrates with legal powers to separate these children. The Sansiya child removal project, for instance, prompted debates about colonial legal exceptions and the ‘legality’ of the colonial state’s practices among colonial officials and Indian and European non-officials.

Jessica Hinchy is an Assistant Professor of History at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. She researches the history of gender, sexuality, households and family in colonial north India. In 2019, Cambridge University Press published her first monograph, Governing Gender and Sexuality in Colonial India: The Hijra, c. 1850-1900. Her research has also appeared in Modern Asian Studies, Gender & History and Asian Studies Review, among other journals.

The event will take place by zoom on Friday 5 March (or Thursday 4 March, depending on your timezone - see below). Please register here (via Eventbrite) to attend.


Sydney @ 12.30 pm on 5 March

Singapore @ 9.30 am on 5 March

Auckland @ 2.30 pm on 5 March

New Delhi @ 7.00 am on 5 March

London/Dublin @ 1.30 am on 5 March

Nairobi @ 4.30 am on 5 March

Vancouver @ 5.30 pm on 4 March

New Haven/Toronto @ 8.30 pm on 4 March

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Osgoode Society Zoom event Wednesday Jan 20 at 5:30 pm

During the first few months of 2021 the Osgoode Society will be putting on a series of ZOOM events, covering various themes including Diversity and the Law in Canadian Legal History. The schedule is currently a work in progress, but the first such event will be held on Wednesday January 20th, at 5.30. 

Professor Heidi Bohaker of the University of Toronto will discuss her book Doodem and Council Fire: Anishinaabe Governance Through Alliance. This study of Anishinaabe law before the Europeans is the Osgoode Society’s members’ selection for 2020. To join us for this fascinating presentation please register on our website at On registration you will be sent the link for the event.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Are you interested in history of black labour and the law in late 18th century Canada? Or the medical-legal history of "certification" of insanity?


Upcoming Events


Join us for an Evening of Canadian Legal History 

Spots still available

November 18, 2020 at 5:30 via Zoom

This event will explore the work of our 2019 McMurtry Fellowship recipients.


Anna Jarvis, Black labour, loyalism, and the law in late eighteenth-century British North America

In 1783 five siblings of the Jarvis family of Stamford, Connecticut, were forced to flee the City of New York as part of the Loyalist diaspora following the American revolutionary war, bringing notions of race and labour with them. This diaspora included black Loyalists and black slaves who were to become part of the black population of the British North American colonies. The Jarvis siblings would profit from black labour by various then legal means, including indenture and enslavement, reflecting the varying degrees of bound and free black labour under negotiation in British North America at the end of the eighteenth century.

Filippo Sposini, Just the Basic Facts: The Certification of Insanity in Ontario (1870s-1890s)

The certification of insanity was a medico-legal procedure regulating admission into psychiatric institutions. This presentation will focus on the certification procedure developed during the second half of the nineteenth-century in Ontario. Taking the Toronto Lunatic Asylum as a case study, it will explore the introduction of certificates of insanity, examination practices, and people involved in the process. It will show that certification in Ontario was a consensus-based procedure shielding medical practitioners from potential legal actions.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER and Renew Your Membership for 2020.

Bohaker, Doodem and Council Fire to be published at the end of the month

 We are pleased to announce that this year our members’ book, Doodem and Council Fire: Anishinaabe Governance Through Alliance by Heidi Bohaker, is scheduled to be published at the end of this month. If you are a member the book will be sent to you automatically.

Not only is this book an exhaustively researched account of the legal traditions of one of the Indigenous peoples of Canada, it is also elaborately illustrated and would make a wonderful Christmas gift!  To purchase a gift membership, or to renew your membership, please visit our website