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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Schneiderman review of Vaughan biography of Haldane

We get requests!

David Schneiderman of the U of T Faculty of Law and Department of Political Science has sent along a note about his review of Frederick Vaughan's biography, Viscount Haldane: 'The Wicked Stepfather of the Canadian Constitution.'  'Haldane unrevealed' will appear in the McGill Law Journal and is currently available on SSRN.

Suffice it to say Schneiderman is not a fan of the book. Here's the abstract:

When historians proffer historical truths they "must not merely tell truths," they must "demonstrate their truthfulness as well," observes Hackett Fisher. As against this standard, Frederick Vaughan's intellectual biography of Richard Burdon Haldane does not fare so well. Vaughan argues that Viscount Haldane's jurisprudential tilt, which favoured the provinces in Canadian federalism cases before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC), was rooted in Haldane's philosophizing about Hegel. He does so, however, without much reference to the political and legal currents within which Haldane thought, wrote, and thrived. More remarkably, Vaughan does not derive from his reading of Haldane and Hegel any clear preference for the local over the national. We are left to look elsewhere for an explanation for Haldane's favouring of the provincial side in division-of-powers cases. Vaughan additionally speculates about why Haldane's predecessor Lord Watson took a similar judicial path, yet offers only tired and unconvincing rationales. Vaughan, lastly, rips Haldane out of historical context for the purpose of condemning contemporary Supreme Court of Canada decision-making under the Charter. Under the guise of purposive interpretation, Vaughan claims that the justices are guilty of constitutionalizing a "historical relativism" that Vaughan wrongly alleges Hegel to have propounded. While passing judgment on the book's merits, the purpose of this review essay is to evaluate the book by situating it in the historiographic record, a record that Vaughan ignores at his peril.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Constance Backhouse wins SSHRCC Gold Medal

Breaking news from IFLS: Constance Backhouse has been awarded a Gold Medal from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada for her achievement in interdisciplinary research in law.

Congratulations yet again, Constance!

From the press release:

Since Backhouse began her career in the study of law more than 30 years ago, her chosen topics have been issues of major importance in Canada’s legal history: the legal status of women, the role of women in the legal profession, and racism in the legal system. Her research and analysis of these topics have highlighted an important part of our legal and societal history, which, in turn, has helped enrich our understanding of our current legal framework.
Throughout her career, Backhouse has received high acclaim for her research from both academic and non-academic communities. Among her many awards and honours are the Killam Prize (2008), a Trudeau Fellowship (2006-09), the Order of Canada (2008), and the Order of Ontario (2010). In 2007, she became the first non-American historian to be elected president of the American Society for Legal History.
Backhouse has authored numerous critically acclaimed books, including Legal history of Racism in Canada, which was awarded the 2002 Joseph Brant award by the Ontario Historical Society as the “best book in multicultural history published within the past three years.” Carnal Crimes: Sexual Assault Law in Canada, 1900-1975, published in 2009, was lauded as one of the most important texts ever published on sexual assault law. In honour of her distinguished contribution to law and letters in Canada, Backhouse was awarded the David W. Mundell Medal by the attorney general of Ontario this past spring
.Not least of her many achievements is putting Canadian Legal History on the map (and keeping it there) and her encourgement and support for legal historians, for which there is no reward but our continued thanks and appreciation.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Call for Legal History papers for Congress 2012

And other socio-legal subjects...

The important thing: Lyndsay Campbell is to be commended for reaching out to the Canadian Historical Association to co-ordinate Canadian legal history panels with the Canadian Law and Society Association, and I hope lots of us take her up on this initiative.

Here's the CFP: (It's long, so I didn't include the French version which is, or will be shortly, available at the CLSA/ACDS website. Information on Congress 2012 is here.)

The program committee of the Canadian Law and Society Association invites submissions for the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences to be held at the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario. The theme of Congress 2012, Crossroads: Scholarship for an Uncertain World is an opportunity for socio-legal scholars to explore law’s place in the contingencies of world events, past, present and future. We welcome proposals for papers in any area of law and society scholarship. We encourage participants to submit suggestions for complete panels and roundtables but also welcome individual submissions. Graduate student events and workshops will be an integral part of CLSA 2012.
We are open to having a number of panels that focus on particular themes, such as critical criminology, gender & sexuality and indigenous legal knowledge. As well, we are attempting some measure of coordination between our meeting and those of the Canadian Sociological Association and the Canadian Historical Association, so if you are planning to participate in or even just attend either of those meetings, please do feel free indicate that on your submission.

Where: Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario
When: 27-29 May 2012
Deadline: January 27, 2012 (early expressions of interest are encouraged and appreciated)
Submission information: Please forward panel and paper proposals by email attachment to Lyndsay Campbell, Chair, CLSA Programme Committee, Presenters must be members of the CLSA. They must also pay the Congress’s fees, including the society fee for the CLSA.
Please supply the following information in a Word file (.docx, .doc, or .rtf) attached to your email:

Position (if you are a graduate student, please specify)
Other presenters, their institutional affiliations and their contact information

Panel theme (if you are submitting a proposal for a full panel)

Paper title (or titles, if a full panel is being submitted)

Abstract(s) (150-250 words each)

Keywords describing your topic (to be used in coordinating papers on panels)

Technological needs (PowerPoint/projector, accessibility requirements etc.)
                 Are you willing to act as a Chair for another panel?
Information on registration, accommodation and other Congress activities will be available through the websites of the Federation, the University of Waterloo, and Wilfrid Laurier University. A registration guide should be available in January 2012.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

M.A. Thesis on Legal Practice in New France

A thesis by Alexandra Havrylyshyn of the Department of History at McGill (available on Proquest Theses & Dissertations ) focusses on ancien regime low law. The title is "Troublesome Trials in New France: The Itinerary of an Ancien Regime Legal Practitioner, 1740--1743."

Here's the abstract:

This microhistory on one legal practitioner seeks to begin to fill the lacunae in the understanding of legal practice in New France by relying on the richness of Québec's archives. Jacques Nouette de la Poufellerie originated in France but practiced in the colony of Canada between the years 1740-1743. In this short time span, over 100 parties hired him as their legal proxy. A collective biography of Nouette's professional network of practitioners, as well as his clientèle, is first performed. The more socially controversial among Nouette's cases, including the only freedom suit to take place in the Ancien Régime period in early Canada, are then examined in detail. Finally, Nouette's precarious social standing and his eventual expulsion from the colony are investigated. By focusing on the itinerary of one of the agents who shuttled between people and the courts of New France, this thesis also contributes to a re-conceptualization of black-letter legal history as "legality" contingent on its socio-historical context.

Nouette's story sounds fascinating. But legality contingent on its socio-historical context? Who knew? :)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Symposium on Law and the French Atlantic

Allan Greer of McGill University is one of the organizers of the Symposium on Comparative Early Modern Legal History, to be held at the Newberry Library in Chicago from 9-5 on Friday, October 5, 2012 entitled Law and the French Atlantic.

The announcement:

The French Atlantic has not yet received the sustained attention given to the British and Spanish Atlantic, particularly where the topic of law is concerned. This conference will explore the legal dimension (broadly conceived) of the French Atlantic empire in the early modern period. The variegated and rapidly evolving juridical order of ancien régime France was deeply implicated in the expansion of overseas commerce, the founding of colonies, and the creation of imperial administrations. Participants may explore topics such as: legal discourse and imperial ideologies; the establishment of colonial jurisdictions in Canada, Louisiana, and the French West Indies; the regulation of slavery; indigenous peoples and the law; the emergence of colonial land tenures; and the legal framework for trade and business enterprise. The organizers wish particularly to encourage comparative approaches that consider more than one French colony and that examine contrasts and convergences with the British, Spanish and Portuguese empires. In according due attention to the distinctive features of French law and the French New World empire, we hope to enrich understandings of Atlantic history generally.

Chen on Legal Specialists and Judicial Administration in Late Imperial China, 1651-1911

Li Chen of the University of Toronto has posted "Legal Specialists and Judicial Administration in Late Imperial China, 1651-1911" on SSRN.  The article will appear in the journal Late Imperial China, Vol. 33, No. 2, June 2012.

Here's the abstract:

This article studies the historical origin, legal training, career patterns, professional identity and ethics, judicial philosophy, and scale of professionalization of thousands of legal specialists in late imperial China from about 1651 to 1911. It is the first serious, extensive study in English of these early modern Chinese jurists and legal professionals who were the de facto judges in probably most of the 1650 Chinese local governments/courts for more than two centuries. For the first time, it uses archival sources to offer an estimate of about 3,000 such trained legal specialists working in local Chinese governments in any given year from roughly 1711 to 1911, which means an estimated total of 30,000 for that period as a whole, assuming an average tenure of 20 years of full employment for them. This study calls for a rethinking of much of the received wisdom on late imperial Chinese law and society, judicial administration, culture and politics, as well as their legacy on modern China's drive for the rule of law. It will also be of value to scholars of comparative law, legal philosophy, professionalism, and Asian legal cultures

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Archivists plead to keep records of gun registry

Three cheers for the Association of Canadian Archivists, and former national chief archivist Ian Wilson, pointing out the ways in which the Conservative Government's intent to destroy the registry records is short-sighted (at best) since the current LAC staff are unable to protest by reason of bureaucratic confidentiality and neutrality.

As the National Post article (!) points out, not only will future Blake Browns be deprived of valuable information, but it sets a very bad precedent for the maintenance of public data (although the change in the census law kind of did that already.)

Join the CLSA/ACDS!

While the Osgoode Society is a great book club and virtual meeting place for Canadian legal history buffs from all walks of life (and everyone who reads this blog should be a member), legal historians from the Canadian academy (current and retired faculty and graduate students) have no real dedicated associational home. Many of us are members of the American Society for Legal History, an organization which is dominated by Americans but is not confined to that breed. And joining the ASLH is a great idea.

So is joining the Canadian Law and Society Association. As the name suggests, this is a group for scholars whose interests can broadly be described as socio-legal. Many teach in law schools, others hail from the disciplines of criminology, sociology, anthropology and political science. The society is a big tent; the association's board has traditionally included legal historians and their conference programmers ensure that legal history panels are included in conference agendas. The CLSA is also consciously grad student friendly. It is true that the association's journal, the Canadian Journal of Law and Society, has not been over-burdened with legal history pieces, but this is not editorial policy--there are several historians on the current editorial board (including me). This lacuna is probably due to the practice of legal historians submitting to history or legal journals in a kind of path dependence.

All of which is to say: join or renew your membership, attend the annual conferences and consider submitting your articles to the CJLS!