CALL FOR PAPERS – British Legal History Conference 2022

The 25th British Legal History Conference 2022

In association with the Irish Legal History Society

Queen’s University, Belfast

6-9 July 2022


Abstracts are invited for the 25th BRITISH LEGAL HISTORY CONFERENCE which is being run jointly with the Irish Legal History Society and hosted by Queen’s University Belfast, on Wednesday 6 July – Saturday 9 July 2022. 

The conference was originally scheduled for 2021. Queen’s, Belfast, was given the honour of hosting the BLHC in 2021, because it is a significant year in the “Decade of Centenaries”[1] in Ireland, north and south, marking both the centenary of the opening in June 1921 of the Parliament of Northern Ireland, established under the Government of Ireland Act 1920, and the centenary of the signing of articles of agreement for the Anglo-Irish Treaty in December 1921, leading to the establishment of the Irish Free State.   The conference theme, “Law and Constitutional Change”, was chosen against this background.  The Covid-19 pandemic intervened, making postponement unavoidable. 

Organising the conference in 2022 will, however, allow us to celebrate the half-centenary of the British Legal History Conference, first held in Aberystwyth in 1972.  Our hope is that attendance at the conference can be in person, but this will be kept under review and, if necessary, the option of online attendance/participation will be considered.

Conference papers can examine from any historical perspective the relationship between law and constitutional change. The difficulty of defining constitutional change was noted by the Select Committee on the Constitution in their report, The Process of Constitutional Change (HL Paper 177, 2011, para. 10), but they identified several examples, without being exhaustive: parliamentary sovereignty; the rule of law and the rights and liberties of the individual; the union state; representative government; and state membership of international organisations, such as (then) the EU and the Commonwealth.  These are, of course, only examples and the conference theme will be interpreted in all its breadth.

In the context of present-day analysis of the political and constitutional upheavals in British-Irish relations in the early 1920s, the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, has adopted the Irish word, Machnamh, meaning reflection, contemplation, meditation and thought, for a series of online reflections –  In the spirit of Machnamh, we invite you to join the conversation on law and constitutional change in Queen’s, Belfast, in July 2022.


Please note the following rules:

  • If you submitted an abstract in 2020, you must make a fresh submission.
  • Abstracts must be for individual papers only, not for panels. Co-authored papers are acceptable.
  • Only one abstract should be submitted per person.
  • Abstracts must be submitted as Microsoft Word documents using the online portal on the Call for Papers page of the conference website.  Please do not submit by email.
  • Abstracts must not exceed 500 words.
  • Please indicate if your proposal is contingent on the availability of an option of online participation.
  • The deadline for submission of abstracts is Monday 30 August 2021.
  • Queries can be emailed to    
  • At the conference, individual oral presentations will last 15-20 minutes.

We hope to publish the programme on the conference website in October 2021.  Details of plenary speakers will also appear there in due course.

Proposals from postgraduate and early career researchers are welcome.

Further information about travel to Belfast, accommodation, and so on, will be added to the conference website during 2021-2022:

Poster competition

This, the second joint BLHC – ILHS conference, was proposed by Sir Anthony Hart, retired High Court judge, former president of ILHS and enthusiastic supporter of BLHCs, who died suddenly in July 2019.  A poster competition is planned during the 2022 conference as a tribute to Tony.  There will be two prizes, including one for the PGR/early career category. The prizes are generously funded by the Journal of Legal History and by the Irish Legal History Society.  Details of the competition will be posted on the conference website. 

[1] See, a website sponsored by the Irish Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, and other websites linked to it.

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MA scholarship in legal history

An MA Scholarship in Legal History at Victoria University of Wellington is available. You can check out full details at:

Closing date March 1

$17,000 stipend plus domestic tuition fees

For more information email Dr Valerie Wallace at

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Generous gift to Kercher Scholarship

The ANLHS has received a generous gift from South Auckland law firm Kayes Fletcher Walker to the Kercher Scholarship fund. Kercher scholarships are awarded on the basis of merit to postgraduate students for help defraying the cost of attending and presenting at the annual ANLHS conference.

The generous gift from Kayes Fletcher Walker will enable an additional Kercher Scholarship be awarded when an applicant meets one of the following criteria, in addition to the general criteria set out in relation to the Kercher scholarship. An additional Kercher scholarship may be awarded to a post-graduate student whose research project:

  • addresses Indigenous people and legal history; or
  • engages Mātauranga Māori or another Indigenous knowledge system; or
  • adopts kaupapa Māori or another Indigenous research methodology.
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40th Annual Conference of the Australian and New Zealand Law and History Society

When: 3-4 December 2021

Where: University of Technology Sydney

What: Tenuous Histories and Provable Pasts: How Legal Historians Create Knowledge

CFP: Out soon.

Accommodation and Registration: We will be providing information about accommodation and registration on this website well before the event.

What about Covid-19? At present our expectation is that this will be a hybrid conference. We hope that by December of this year many of our Australian/New Zealand colleagues will be able to attend in person. We also hope to offer options for those who cannot attend. Things may change (particularly with the ‘in person’ part). We will be responsive to the changing circumstances and to health advice. And we will keep you all informed.

Questions: Email Shaunnagh Dorsett (

Organising committee: Isabella Alexander, Katherine Biber, Alecia Simmonds, Diane Kirkby, Shaunnagh Dorsett

To do now? If you have not already, sign up on the right for email notifications. We will not spam you. We will let you know only what you need to know when you need to know it!

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

The citation from judges Bettina Bradbury and Mark Lunney for the award reads as follows:

This is an excellent piece of historical work, balanced between legal explanation and cultural context linked to create an interesting, novel and compelling narrative. The article explores the history of the use of the defences of provocation and insanity in intimate partner trials for murder, tracing the use of provocation in nineteenth century England and Victoria and linking this history to changing understandings of masculinity as well as to the difficulty of establishing proof. Provocation was abolished as a defence in Victoria in 2005, yet lingers on in the ways insanity is used.  This is interesting and really important material. The link between popular and judicial conceptions of mental illness in the context of femicide  and how insanity or temporary insanity became a more widespread defence over time, is well explained and supported by contemporary references. A strength of the paper lies in its broad approach, incorporating cultural understandings and petitions for clemency and its grounding in scholarship on murder, masculinity, madness and provocation. It well deserves the award of the Francis Forbes Society for Australian Legal History prize for 2019.

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Citation: ANZLHS, Annual Prize in Legal History 2020

Amanda Nettelbeck’s book Indigenous Rights and Colonial Subjecthood traces the development of indigenous rights and colonial governance systems across the British empire. It addresses what Nettelbeck describes as the ‘unresolved debates’ in the development of colonial legal systems at moments when British administrators were grappling with the fact that recognising indigenous people’s sovereignty and their position as British subjects meant obligations for colonial administrations and white settler law to uphold those rights. 

Spanning 100 years(1830-1930s), Nettelbeck traces an incredibly complex legal landscape of ‘protection’ systems, a hallmark of British colonising practices. We learn of the vast reach of the law in criminal and civil governance systems — such as those governing labour, welfare, families, and public space — which controlled and regulated indigenous lives. The experiences of Aboriginal people in Australia are the focus of the work, with comparisons regularly made to policies around the British empire such as those in Trinidad, Jamaica, New Zealand and Natal. Nettelbeck makes impressive use of chronological case studies about regulatory practices that impacted indigenous people’s lives and how Aboriginal people navigated the legal and philosophical perspectives that underpinned British protection systems, systems which favoured conciliatory approaches in some instances, and coercion and punishment in others. Throughout Nettelbeck’s historical analysis is underscored by the deft use of historiographical and theoretical analyses of colonialism which are intricately woven into the narrative, making the book a pleasure to read and a rewarding piece of scholarship to engage with. 

The judges were unanimous in their decision that Indigenous Rights and Colonial Subjecthood be awarded the 2020 ANZLHS Annual Prize in Legal History. 

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Legal History Symposium with Lisa Ford and Jessica Hinchy

Join us for the second of several symposia planned for 2020 and 2021 for Legal Histories of Empire.

Our speakers:

Lisa Ford: ‘The King’s Colonial Peace: Variable subjecthood and the transformation of empire’

This paper is drawn from my forthcoming book, The King’s Peace: Empire and Order in the British Empire. The book uses colonial peacekeeping as a lens through which to examine the shifting parameters of crown prerogative in Empire in the Age of Revolutions. This paper will argue that the legal vulnerability of (and often threats to order posed by) a diverse array of subjects – formerly French Catholics in Quebec, Caribbean slaves and NSW convicts – both prompted and justified the unravelling of the very idea of the freeborn Englishman that had been mobilised by protestant Britons in pre-revolutionary America.

Lisa Ford is Professor of History at the University of New South Wales, Australia. Her major publications include Settler Sovereignty: Jurisdiction and Indigenous People in America and Australia, 1788-1836 (2010) which won the Littleton-Griswold Prize (American Historical Association); the Thomas J. Wilson Prize (Harvard University Press); and the Premiers History Award (NSW). She is also co-author of Rage for Order: The British Empire and the Origins of International Law, 1800-1850 (co-authored with Lauren Benton, 2016) and author of The King’s Peace, which will be published by Harvard later this year. Ford is currently leading a collaborative project funded by the Australian Research Council exploring the role of commissions of inquiry sent throughout the British Empire in the 1820s on which subject she hopes to lead author a book manuscript this year. She also holds a four-year ARC Future Fellowship, during which she will explore the changing use of martial law in the British Empire from the late eighteenth century until 1865.

Jessica Hinchy: ‘Child Removal and the Colonial Governance of the Family: Hijra and “Criminal Tribe” Households in North India, c. 1865-1900’

Historians have primarily examined colonial child removal projects in settler colonial contexts. Yet from 1865, the colonial government in north India forcibly removed children from criminalised communities. Child separation began in the households of gender non-conforming people labelled ‘eunuchs,’ particularly Hijras, and eventually extended to socially marginalised people designated as ‘criminal tribes,’ especially Sansiyas. First, what does a comparison of these child removal schemes tell us about the colonial governance of the family? Patrilineal, conjugal and reproductive household models marginalised Hijras and Sansiyas in differing ways, while the category of ‘child’ was contingently defined. Child separation was attempted to varying ends, including both elimination and assimilation. Yet often, the colonial state could not sustain such intensified forms of intimate governance in the face of resistance from households. Nor could officials simply determine removed children’s futures. Second, what does child removal suggest about the making of colonial law? When children were initially removed from Hijra and Sansiya households, officials admitted that ‘the law may have been somewhat strained,’ since existing laws did not provide police or magistrates with legal powers to separate these children. The Sansiya child removal project, for instance, prompted debates about colonial legal exceptions and the ‘legality’ of the colonial state’s practices among colonial officials and Indian and European non-officials.

Jessica Hinchy is an Assistant Professor of History at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. She researches the history of gender, sexuality, households and family in colonial north India. In 2019, Cambridge University Press published her first monograph, Governing Gender and Sexuality in Colonial India: The Hijra, c. 1850-1900. Her research has also appeared in Modern Asian Studies, Gender & History and Asian Studies Review, among other journals.

The event will take place by zoom on Friday 5 March (or Thursday 4 March, depending on your timezone – see below). Please register here (via Eventbrite) to attend.


Sydney @ 12.30 pm on 5 March

Singapore @ 9.30 am on 5 March

Auckland @ 2.30 pm on 5 March

New Delhi @ 7.00 am on 5 March

London/Dublin @ 1.30 am on 5 March

Nairobi @ 4.30 am on 5 March

Vancouver @ 5.30 pm on 4 March

New Haven/Toronto @ 8.30 pm on 4 March

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AM for legal history professor

Professor Emeritus Wilfrid Prest AM FASSA FAHA was awarded Member (AM) in the General Division for significant service to tertiary education and to the law and legal history. Professor Prest is Emeritus Professor in History and Law at the University of Adelaide. He is a historian of early modern England and one of Australia’s leading scholars of legal history and the legal profession. He is a Fellow of Queen’s College at the University of Melbourne, the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, the Royal Historical Society (UK), a member of the Council of the Selden Society (UK) and was President of the History Council of South Australia.

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New book – Lord Devlin

Lord Devlin by Justice John Sackar

Lord Devlin was a leading lawyer of his generation. Moreover, he was one of the most recognised figures in the judiciary, thanks to his role in the John Bodkin Adams trial and the Nyasaland Commission of Inquiry. It is hard then to believe that he retired as a Law Lord at a mere 58 years of age. This important book looks at the life, influences and impact of this most important judicial figure. Starting with his earliest days as a schoolboy before moving on to his later years, the author draws a compelling picture of a complex, brilliant man who would shape not just the law but society more generally in post-war Britain.

Justice John Sackar is a judge at the Supreme Court of New South Wales.

Oct 2020   |   9781509923700   |   280pp   |   Hbk   |    RSP: £25  

Discount Price: £20

Order online at – use the code UG6 at the checkout to get 20% off your order!

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Francis Forbes Society – Ninth Annual Plunkett Lecture

A reminder that the Ninth Annual Plunkett Lecture will be delivered by Dr John McLaughlin AM on Tuesday 24 November 2020 at 5:15pm. The JH Plunkett Lecture honours the memory of one of this State’s pivotal Attorneys General. John Hubert Plunkett (1802-1869) arrived in NSW, from Ireland, in 1832. For more than 30 years thereafter he made a major contribution to colonial law and society, serving, inter alia, as Solicitor General and Attorney General. In 1835 he published The Australian Magistrate, the first Australian legal practice book. He was the first Australian lawyer to be granted a commission as Queen’s Counsel. He led Roger Therry, another Irish-born barrister, in the conduct of the Myall Creek Murder trials.

The 2020 Plunkett Lecture will focus on John Plunkett himself. The lecture will be chaired by the NSW Attorney General, The Hon Mark Speakman SC MP, himself a former Plunkett Lecturer.

The lecture will be held in the Banco Court, and streamed using the Court’s remote facilities (bearing in mind Covid-19 restrictions on public gatherings). Registration is required (admission is free).

Members of the Francis Forbes Society can register here via TryBooking – Details on becoming a member of the Society are available on the Society’s web site:

We will send the link and programme for the lecture to registered attendees on Tuesday morning.

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