Sir Francis Forbes Society for Australian Legal History, Prize

This prize is awarded for the best presentation by a higher degree research student or an early career researcher at the annual conference. This paper will be published, subject to the usual refereeing process, in law&history, the Society’s journal.

The prize is valued at AU$500 and the society wishes to acknowledge the generosity of the Francis Forbes Society for Australian Legal History for sponsoring this prize.

Our 2021 winner is Elizabeth Bowyer for her paper ‘Taking the Stand: Women as Witnesses in New Zealand’s Colonial Courts c.1840-1900.’

The citation reads as follows:

“Taking the Stand: Women as Witnesses in New Zealand’s Colonial Courts” is a fascinating account of women’s role within the trial, with a focus on their role in giving testimony. Moving beyond traditional interpretations of women’s role as either victims or offenders, this article makes an important contribution to knowledge about colonial women’s agency within the court.

Drawing on cases from the New Zealand court system, the article captures a range of women who were not normally part of historical analysis, including bystanders to crime, and wives of defendants. This article gives a voice to these women, as well as to women who were either victims or accused. The author considers both Māori and Pākehā women, and carefully contextualises both groups within the local legal traditions. A further strength of this article is its constant awareness of the intersections between society and the law, including women’s role as economic agents. In this impressive research, we learn more of the lives of these women, including their relationships to husbands, family and employers. More than this, we learn how their lives intersected with crime, the law, and the criminal justice sector, all through their own words.

For all that it reveals, this article is well deserving of the Sir Francis Forbes Society for Australian Legal History Prize.

Past winners:

2014 Janine Rizzetti, ‘Judging Protection: “The Unintentional Errors of an Unlearned Magistracy”, British Guiana and Port Phillip, 1830s–40s’.

2015 James Kirby, ‘”Conditional on a Bill of Rights”:  Race and Human Rights in the Constitution of Botswana, 1960-66’.

2016 Danielle Boaz, ‘Fraud, Vagrancy and the “Pretended” Exercise of Supernatural Powers in England, South Africa, and Jamaica’.

2017 Jon Piccini, ‘”A new government with new policies and new attitudes”: The human rights ‘breakthrough’ in 1970s Australia’.

2018 Tim Calabria, T’he Bungalow and the Transformation of the “Half-Caste” Category in Central Australia: Race and Law at the Limits of a Settler Colony 1914-37′.

2019 Georgina Rychner, ‘Defences to intimate partner homicide: Historicising the relationship between provocation and temporary insanity in Victoria, Australia.’

2020 Not awarded.

2021 Libby Bowyer, ‘Taking the Stand: Women as Witnesses in New Zealand’s Colonial Courts c.1840-1900’.

How to Apply

Applicants should indicate their interest in being considered for the prize to the conference conveners prior to the conference.

A final written paper of 8 000 words plus notes, in a format consistent with law&history journal style guide, should be submitted to the editor of the journal no later than 6 weeks after the annual conference.  Please include an abstract (maximum of 200 words) with your submission.

Papers will be judged by a panel appointed by the editor of law&history.

Winners are normally announced by the following April.