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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

CFP: Two day seminar in Cambridge on legal history and empire across centuries

via Ed Cavanagh:

This is a general call for papers in anticipation of an intimate two-day seminar to be held at the University of Cambridge on Friday 23rd March and Saturday 24th March, 2018. This will be an advanced workshop, with drafts circulated in advance. The event will showcase a number of rare and searching attempts to identify continuities and differences across ancient, medieval, and modern legal and imperial contexts. This moves back towards Braudel while also tailing in the direction of all that heat left by David Armitage and Jo Guildi’s fiery interventions in The History Manifesto, which calls for newly ambitious historical studies to break from long-set moulds. Empire lends itself naturally to explorations of this kind using large time-frames. Not only is this due to the endurance of many empires across centuries, but this also owes to the presence (and comparability) of empires within different periods. Legal source materials are helpful for facilitating this kind of approach, whether relating to private law events or the public nature of imperium. In the right hands, legal texts, court records, official opinions, drafted constitutions and acts, along with the correspondences and commentaries relating thereto can push us to contemplate a number of bold conclusions about economics, politics, society, religiosity, and humanity in general.

Abstracts of proposals (between 200 and 500 words) will be accepted until July 31st, 2017, at PhD students and postdoctoral scholars are encouraged to include a CV with their proposal. Your proposal will be especially welcome if you anticipate to be able to share work according to the following guidelines:

  1. It will extend across at least three centuries OR will otherwise offer an original reinterpretation of a more focused period with the explicit goal to allow for new studies across periodizations;
  2. It will cover any period from Ancient Greece to the present day (900 BC — 2017 AD), with preference, however, shown for the period between the latter Roman Empire and the interwar period (500 AD – 1939 AD);
  3. It will explore a historical topic relevant to law (broadly encompassing legal thought, legal process, public law, private law, and constitutionalism) OR empire (pertaining either to specific imperial regimes or to imperium as synonym for public authority, sovereignty, authority), with preference shown to approaches that consider BOTH;
  4. It will be laid out in a thematic or chronological narrative style, or otherwise in case studies unified appropriately in conclusion.

For enquiries and submissions, please contact Dr Edward Cavanagh, at

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Petition regarding secret Government of Canada Archives

Via Osgoode Society author Dennis Molinaro:

It has come to the attention of the public that the Canadian government over the course of decades has amassed large quantities of historical documents, numbering in the millions, and has kept this material in several different areas linked to institutions such as the Privy Council Office, Global Affairs, the Department of Justice and others. The holdings of the government have been kept secret. A petition has been created and is available to sign electronically on the e-petition government website. It is petition number e-1090. The petition calls on the government to transfer all historical material to Library and Archives Canada (LAC) as well as to reform the Access to Information Act to ensure historical material is regularly transferred to the archives, as well as enabling transparent citizen access to documents. The LAC Act anticipates the direct transfer of material from government departments, institutions and agencies to the National Archivist and, therefore, the practice of holding back such transfers thwarts the spirit and letter of the Act and undermines the role of LAC as a central repository for the documentary heritage of Canada.

Monday, May 8, 2017

U of T library online exhibit: Pierson v. Post judgment roll

The policy of this blog has been to post on Canadian legal history, rather than legal history written by Canadians. I have made a few exceptions, and here is an exceptionally worthy one. (Beside which, Pierson v. Post has been taught in Canadian as well as American classrooms, although it is very much an American case.)

fc4ab5a71c1423bea6189e30cc0670b1.jpgAngela Fernandez of the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, a notable Pierson v. Post scholar, has arranged an online library exhibit of the judgment roll.

The exhibit includes a short piece by Angela on the context of the judgment, and reproduces the twenty pages of the judgment roll in PDF format.

Here's the description of the exhibit:

Pierson v. Post has been made famous by its use in American property law classrooms since the 1950s. It is often the first case law students study in property as it provides an introduction to the concept of first possession and how one acquires possession in a wild animal, the fox, owned by no one. 

The case report reproduced in law school casebooks was created by New York’s first official law reporter George Caines after the case was argued by eminent counsel and reversed in Pierson’s favor at the New York Supreme Court. What law students generally read is a brief statement of the facts, followed the majority decision by Justice Daniel Tompkins and a dissent by Justice Brockholst Livingston. 

The Judgment Roll is a copy — probably made by the clerk of Pierson’s lawyer Nathan Sanford — of the documents Sanford filed in his writ of certiorari to the New York Supreme Court. This was a process in which the loser before a Justice of the Peace could appeal the decision by asking for the New York Supreme Court to command that the Justice of the Peace explain what had been done before him in the magistrate’s court, in this case a jury trial held at Post’s request on December 30, 1802, for their review. It was the job of the New York Supreme Court to check, yes, all the ‘i’s were dotted and ‘t’s were crossed in the magistrate’s proceedings and if they were not, Pierson (the “now plaintiff” before the New York Supreme Court) was justified in winning a reversal of the jury’s 75¢ award for Post and his $5 in costs. The Judgment Roll also includes the command to Justice of the Peace John N. Fordham to return the documentation, Sanford’s six specific grounds of appeal, as well as the words the New York Supreme Court used in order to hold the case over from year to year until it was ultimately decided in Pierson’s favor on September 10, 1805. Sanford then filed this copy of all of the documents (those provided by Fordham, his own, and the New York Supreme Court) as the “Record” in the case on the same day.
This judgment roll was found by University of Toronto law professor and legal historian Angela Fernandez at the Division of Old Records, New York County Clerk’s Office in New York City in May 2007.
Each page of the judgment roll is reproduced with an accompanying transcript prepared by Professor Fernandez.
It has subsequently disappeared but a dataset was created to preserve the images and make them publicly available. You can find it here. A transcript of the Judgment Roll is also available as an appendix in Angela Fernandez, Pierson v. Post, the Hunt for the Fox: Law and Professionalization in American Legal Culture (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2017).
Running Fox by Paul de Vos, courtesy of Museo Nacional del Prado.

See also related articles through the U of T Dataverse accessible here.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Thomas McMahon, 'We Must Teach the Indian What Laws Are': The Laws of Indian Residential Schools in Canada on SSRN

Thomas L. McMahon has posted 'We Must Teach the Indian What Law Is': The Laws of Indian Residential Schools in Canada (April 18, 2017) on SSRN. 

Here's the abstract:

This paper provides a chronological sequence of the laws that were used to create and enforce Indian Residential Schools in Canada. The paper provides extensive excerpts from the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The excerpts are chosen based on how directly they are related to law, and the excerpts are re-organized to be presented in a chronological manner. The table of contents of the paper can serve as a time line of the laws that created and enforced and ended Indian Residential Schools. Other sources are also cited.

This paper is one of series written by the author in attempting to understand and explain why it was nearly impossible for indigenous peoples to use the legal system to protect themselves or obtain compensation for the abuses they suffered in the residential schools until well into the 1990s.