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Thursday, June 4, 2020

Canadian Legal History gets press (with a plug for the Osgoode Society!)

An interview of legal historian (and regular historian!) Christopher Moore by Justice Tom Carey.

Thanks to Chris for sending and Tom Carey for giving permission for me to publish this. This interview appeared in the Association News of the Association of Superior Court Judges.  

Q&A with Legal Historian Christopher Moore

Since his first book Louisbourg Portraits won the Governor-General’s Literary Award in the early 1980s, Christopher Moore has been writing widely about Canadian history, from 1867: How the Fathers Made a Deal to the bestselling children's history, The Story of Canada. But he is a legal historian too, with four big books about law and lawyers so far. Recently we talked about history and lawyers. I have known Chris Moore for over a quarter of a century. When we met at the Law Society we discovered we were neighbours. As well, Chris
often did research on his Law Society history at the Great Library and then Chief Glen Howell lived roughly half way between us. Chris and I also collaborated as members of the West Toronto Junction Historical Society. When we connected by phone recently it was our first chat since the Osgoode Society launch of his book The Court of Appeal for Ontario: Defining the Right of Appeal, 1792 -2013, in November 2014.
Tom Carey: About 25 years ago, I was a bencher at the Law Society, and you came in to write a history of the Law Society. How did that come about?
Christopher Moore: The Law Society's two hundredth birthday in 1997 was coming up
fast, and it wanted a history to mark the occasion. I heard later that some of the best legal history scholars told them it would take a team of ten researchers about ten years to complete it. I was a little more flexible on the deadlines and the budget! And they took a chance on me.
TC: Have you always written about lawyers and the law?
CM: Until then, never. When the Law Society suggested I come in to talk to them, I said, sure, where is your office? There was a bit of a pause before they said, “We are at Osgoode Hall.” I thought I'd killed my chances for sure. But I had written a few books that had been well regarded as history and that people found readable too. I think that after talking to the academics, the Law Society hoped that when they commissioned the book, they'd get one that at least some lawyers might read.
TC: Are lawyers and judges interesting for a historian to write about?
CM: Absolutely. Lawyers get into a little bit of everything: crime, politics, business, property, social issues, family matters. So writing about two hundred years of lawyers and the law society was like following the whole history of Ontario, but focussed and manageable. And with colourful, quotable men and women, and lots of issues and stories. I've been keeping up with legal history ever since.
TC: Since the Law Society history, you have written a history of the BC Court of Appeal and one of the Court of Appeal for Ontario. What about the trial courts, like ours? Isn’t that where the real work of
courts goes on?
CM: I agree with you. Appeal courts determine the law in big cases, and that's important and interesting. But trial courts are where you see the human drama of the people and the law. That's why all the TV legal dramas are about the trial courts, I guess. There is lots of history still to be explored in the trial courts. But when provincial chief justices invite you to look into the history of "their" court, it's hard to say no.
TC: Is there any reason why rigorous, well researched historical works need be hard slogging?
CM: Maybe historians and lawyers are alike in this. Lawyers and judges sometimes talk in a shorthand of legal terms and case citations — and that works well enough when lawyers are talking to each other. Historical scholars use jargon too. And that can be useful and effective when specialists write for each other. I know there are judges who write clear, vigorous, well-organized decisions so even I can grasp the issues at stake. And since I'm a freelance writer, most of my readers are not historical specialists. They may be interested but they should not have to be experts to begin with. After the Law Society history came out, a lawyer told me he bought a copy to decorate the office bookshelf — kind of a bicentennial duty. And then he read it cover to cover. A writer can’t get a nicer reaction than that.
TC: From time to time we hear Canadians in general and the young in particular don’t know or care about their history anymore. In your experience, is
that the case?
CM: I don’t see it. Like I said, I’ve been a freelance writer about Canadian history for decades. If Canadians didn't care, I would have been in some other line of work a long time ago. I might have had to go to law school! Sure, we are a small country and most of our books and news and TV and movies comes from beyond our borders. It's tough. But everywhere I go, I find lots of Canadians who do take an interest, and more. Canada may be stronger than we think. Look at the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History. With all the books it produces and all its oral history of lawyers, the Osgoode Society prospers because lots of working lawyers and judges support legal history. I hope all your judges are members.
Look into Christopher Moore’s
for more on his legal histories.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Wounded Feelings by Eric Reiter wins best scholarly book award from CHA!

We are thrilled that one of the Society's publications for 2019 has just won the prize for best scholarly book of the year from the Canadian Historical Association! We congratulate Eric Reiter of Concordia University on a well deserved accomplishment. Not only is Wounded Feelings a scholarly tour-de-force, delving into the hitherto relatively untouched (in English!) depths of the history of private law in Quebec, but the book is a great read. Lots of moving stories, and lots to think about!

Wounded Feelings analyses the law and litigation involving defamation, breach of promise of marriage, personality rights, and religious beliefs. These were all areas of ‘emotion’ in which Quebecers – lawyers and judges as well as litigants – dealt with the intersection between the subjective world of the emotions and the world of the law, through the idea of moral injury. The author The author uses published law reports and existing archival records of some of those cases, as well as a wide range of other sources, to offer fascinating vignettes that reveal much about day to day life, functional and dysfunctional families, and the dynamics of social and power relations of class, status, age, race and gender across an eighty year period of Quebec history. The discussion of the cases enables the author to demonstrate the complicated blending of the French civil law and the English common law as well as to chart major legal shifts over time. 

If you don't already have the book, head over to the Osgoode Society to buy it while we still have copies available.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

New from UBC Press, Carter, Ours by Every Law of Right and Justice

Available for pre-order at UBC press 

Ours by Every Law of Right and Justice

Women and the Vote in the Prairie Provinces

Many of Canada’s most famous suffragists – from Nellie McClung and Cora Hind to Emily Murphy and Henrietta Muir Edwards – lived and campaigned in the Prairie provinces, the region that led the way in granting women the right to vote and hold office. Manitoba enfranchised women in January 1916, and Saskatchewan and Alberta quickly followed in March and April.
In Ours by Every Right and Justice, award-winning author Sarah Carter challenges the myth that grateful male legislators simply handed western women the vote in recognition that they were equal partners in the pioneering process. Suffragists worked long and hard to overcome obstacles, persuade doubters, and build allies.
But their work also had a dark side. Carter situates the suffragists’ struggle in the colonial history of the region, a period when Indigenous people were being cleared from the Plains and marginalized on reserves to make way for permanent settlers. Even as they pressured legislatures to grant their sisters the vote, settler suffragists often accepted and approved of that same right being denied to “foreigners” and to Indigenous men and women.
This powerful and passionate account of prominent suffragists and their lesser-known allies shows that the right to vote meant different things to different people – political rights and emancipation for some, domination and democracy denied for others.
This book is important reading for anyone with an interest in Canadian women’s history or the history of colonialism in Prairie Canada and on the Great Plains. It will particularly appeal to students of Canadian or political history.

Ours by Every Law of Right and Justice

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Two announcements for grad students and law students from ASLH

The following two announcements are for M.A. students, Ph.D. students, and law students whose interests include legal history:

  1. Student Research Colloquium:  The ASLH invites graduate students to apply to the Student Research Colloquium (SRC), currently scheduled (fingers crossed) for Nov. 11-12, in Chicago, Illinois, immediately prior to the ASLH annual meeting there.  At this pre-conference, funded workshop, eight graduate students will discuss their in-progress research projects with each other and with distinguished legal historians.  Target applicants include early-post-coursework Ph.D. students and historically minded law students.  To apply, electronically submit the following four items to John Wertheimer at: a CV; a cover letter describing, among other things, how many years remain in your course of graduate study; a two-page, single-spaced Research Statement that begins with a title and describes the in-progress project that you propose to present to the colloquium; and a letter of recommendation from a faculty member, sent separately from the other materials.  The application deadline is June 15, 2020.  For more information, click this link

  1. Graduate Student Survey:  The ASLH regards graduate students as an important part of our legal history community.  We are proud of our efforts to date to make the ASLH a hospitable home for early-stage scholars.  But we want to do better.  Among other things, we want to enhance the presence of international graduate students in the organization.  Accordingly, we are gathering information that will help us to make the society an even more inclusive place for early-stage legal historians.  If you are a graduate student or a historically minded law student, please click this link to take a short survey in English, Spanish, or Portuguese, as you choose.  We appreciate your time and hope to see you at the annual meeting in Chicago!

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Call for nominations: R. Roy McMurtry Fellowship in Canadian Legal History

The R. Roy McMurtry Fellowship in Canadian 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 2020 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 to The deadline for applications has been extended to May 31, 2020.

Call for nominations: Peter Oliver Prize for published student work in Canadian Legal History

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 2020 Prize, to be awarded for work published in 2019, is May 15, 2020.
Please send nominations to Professor Jim Phillips, Editor-in-Chief, Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, Osgoode Hall, 130 Queen Street West, Toronto ON M5H 2N6, or by email to

Friday, April 3, 2020

CFP: One Empire, Many Colonies, Similar or Different Histories?, Auckland, Dec. 2020

via David V. Williams, University of Auckland

One Empire, Many Colonies, Similar or Different Histories?

39th Annual Conference of the Australian and New Zealand Law and History Society scheduled to be held in Auckland, 9th-12th December 2020 to go ahead.

Here's the call for papers.

39th Annual Conference of the Australian and New Zealand Law and History Society, Auckland, 9th-12th December 2020
Call for Papers
“One Empire, Many Colonies, Similar or Different Histories?”

Abstracts are invited from scholars bringing historical perspective on law who wish to gather at The University of Auckland and AUT University – there to listen to and discuss papers and panels on aspects of law in history. The 2020 theme invites a comparative lens on British imperial and colonial histories. Other papers with an historical perspective on law might include work that positions law in a specific temporal frame; deals with histories of law, lawmaking, and legal ideas; or has a focus on legal institutions and their personnel. Proposals from postgraduate and early career researchers are welcome.

Individual paper proposals for a 20 minute presentation must include an abstract (no more than 300 words) and a biographical statement (no more than 100 words).
Panel proposals by 3 or 4 speakers should include the above, plus a panel title and brief rationale for the panel as a whole (no more than 300 words).
All abstracts must be submitted to Karen Fairweather: by
15th July 2020

The Organising Committee intends to notify all those whose abstracts have been accepted for the programme by the end of August 2020. All presenters must be current financial members of the Australian and New Zealand Law and History Society, or must pay a subscription for the 2020 year.

Graduate students are invited to apply for Kercher Scholarships to assist them in attending the conference. Please apply to Katherine Sanders: by 31 August. Graduate attendees may also wish to enter for the Forbes Society Prize.

The Society’s peer-reviewed journal law&history will consider submissions from those who present papers at the conference. A conference website with information on registration costs, accommodation options, etc will be established in due course. Our keynote speakers will include Dame Sian Elias (Retired NZ Chief Justice), Joshua Getzler (Oxford) and Miranda Johnson (Sydney, but soon to be at Otago).

Further information about the conference may be gleaned from David or from