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Monday, June 22, 2020

McMurtry Fellowship and two honourable mentions announced. Congratulations to all three winners!

Congratulations to Jean-Christophe Bédard-Rubin, Michael Borsk and Krista Barclay!

The Hon. R. Roy McMurtry Fellowship in Canadian Legal History. The McMurtry Fellowship honors Roy McMurtry’s contributions to Canadian Legal History as the founder and long-time President of the Osgoode Society. It supports a graduate or post-doctoral student working in the field of Canadian legal history.

The fellowship is usually $16,000, which comes mostly from the interest on the endowment supplemented when necessary by our own funds. This year we have a number of budgeted items that we cannot or will not spend the money on – the Annual Meeting, Amanda Campbell’s trips to (now cancelled) judges’ conferences, in person legal history talks (announcement about those coming in a newsletter this week) and others. We decided, given the substantial number of excellent applications, to award a $16,000 fellowship to our first choice and two "honourable mentions" fellowships of $7,000 each.

The principal winner is Jean-Christophe Bédard-Rubin, a doctoral student in the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, who is writing an intellectual history of Ētienne Parent, a leading Quebec constitutional thinker in the immediate pre- and post-Confederation period.

Also McMurtry Fellows, as honourable mentions, are Michael Borsk and Krista Barclay.  Michael Borsk is a Ph.D. student in history at Queen’s University. He is researching the history of ideas about private property and sovereignty in Ontario and Michigan in the first half of the nineteenth century. Krista Barclay received her PhD from the University of Manitoba and is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the Department for the Study of Religion at the University of Toronto. She is working on inheritance law in nineteenth-century British North America.

Note: The Saywell Prize will be announced later in the summer.

Jacqueline Briggs is the winner of the Peter Oliver Prize

Congratulations, Jackie!

Peter Oliver Prize. The Peter Oliver Prize is given for published work in Canadian legal history by a student. The 2020 winner is Jacqueline Briggs, a Ph.D. student in the Centre for Criminology and Socio-Legal Studies, University of Toronto, for her article ‘Exemplary Punishment: T.R.L. MacInnes, the Department of Indian Affairs, and Indigenous Executions, 1936-1952, published in the Canadian Historical Review. The article is a fascinating account of a legal aid programme for capitally-charged Indigenous defendants, the first publicly-funded legal aid programme in Canada.

We hope to hear from Jackie on this fascinating subject this year at an Osgoode Society Canadian Legal History talk, or through our newsletter. Stay tuned.

Friday, June 12, 2020

New open access from the University of Calgary Press: Campbell, McCoy, and Méthot, eds., Canada’s Legal Pasts: Looking Forward, Looking Back

h/t Philip Girard
Posted: 11 Jun 2020 02:00 AM PDT

The University of Calgary Press is publishing a new, open-access book on Canadian legal history.


Canada’s Legal Pasts presents new essays on a range of topics and episodes in Canadian legal history, provides an introduction to legal methodologies, shows researchers new to the field how to locate and use a variety of sources, and includes a combined bibliography arranged to demonstrate best practices in gathering and listing primary sources. It is an essential welcome for scholars who wish to learn about Canada’s legal pasts—and why we study them.

Telling new stories—about a fishing vessel that became the subject of an extraordinarily long diplomatic dispute, young Northwest Mounted Police constables subject to an odd mixture of police discipline and criminal procedure, and more—this book presents the vibrant evolution of Canada’s legal tradition. Explorations of primary sources, including provincial archival records that suggest how Quebec courts have been used in interfamilial conflict, newspaper records that disclose the details of bigamy cases, and penitentiary records that reveal the details of the lives and legal entanglements of Canada’s most marginalized people, show the many different ways of researching and understanding legal history.

This is Canadian legal history as you’ve never seen it before. Canada’s Legal Pasts dives into new topics in Canada’s fascinating history and presents practical approaches to legal scholarship, bringing together established and emerging scholars in collection essential for researchers at all levels.


Lyndsay Cambell is an associate professor at the University of Calgary, cross-appointed between the Faculty of Law and the Department of History. She is the co-editor of Freedom’s Conditions in the U.S.-Canada Borderlands in the Age of Emancipation.

Ted McCoy is an assistant professor in Sociology at the University of Calgary. He is the author of Hard Time: Reforming the Penitentiary in Nineteenth-Century Canada and Four Unruly Women: Stories of Incarceration and Resistance from Canada’s Most Notorious Prison.

Mélanie Méthot is an associate professor of History at the University of Alberta, Augustana Campus and the recipient of a SSHRC Grant for her research on bigamy in Canada. She is the founder of the Augustana Conference on Undergraduate Research and Innovative Teaching.

With Contributions By: Nick Austin, Dominique Clément, Angela Fernandez, Jean-Philippe Garneau, Shelly A.M. Gavigan, Alexandra Havrylyshyn, Louis A. Knafla, Catherine McMillan, Eric A. Reiter, and Christopher Shorey


Foreword: A Student’s Take on Canada’s Legal Pasts
Nick Austin
Introduction: Canada’s Legal Pasts: Looking Forward, Looking Back
Ted McCoy, Lyndsay Campbell, Mélanie Méthot
Part I: Illuminating Cases
Family Defamation in Quebec: The View from the Archives
Eric H. Reiter
Writing Penitentiary History
Ted McCoy
Analyzing Bigamy Cases without Archival Records: It Is Possible
Mélanie Méthot
Trial Pamphlets and Newspaper Accounts
Lyndsay Campbell
The Last Voyage of the Frederick Gerring, Jr
Christopher Shorey
The Textbook Edition of Kent’s Commentaries Used in the Gerring
Angela Fernandez
Part II: Exploring Systems
Empire’s Law: Archives and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council
Catharine MacMillan
Practising Law in the “Lawyerless” Colony of New France
Alexandra Havrylyshyn
Poursuivre son mari en justice au Bas-Canada: femmes mariées et coutume de Paris devant la cour du Banc du roi (1795-1830)
Jean-Philippe Garneau
Getting Their Man: The NWMP as Accused in the Territorial Criminal Court in the Canadian North-West, 1876-1905
Shelley A.M. Gavigan
Part III: Writing Legal History: Past, Present and Future
Sex Discrimination in Law: From Equal Citizenship to Human Rights Law
Dominique Clément
Legal-Historical Writing for the Canadian Prairies: Past, Present, Future
Louis A. Knafla
Primary source bibliography
Secondary source bibliography

More info here

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.