ANZLHS Annual Prize in Legal History

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. 

Past Winners: 

2018: Juridical Encounters: Maori and the Colonial Courts (Auckland University Press, 2017)

2017: Mark Finnane & Andy Kaladelfos ‘Race and Justice in and Australian Court: Prosecuting Homicide in Western Australia 1830-1954’. Australian Historical Studies, 47, 2016

2016: Libby Connors for Warrior: A legendary leader’s dramatic life and violent death on the colonial frontier (Allen & Unwin, 2015)

2015: No award.

2014: Amelia Thorpe for ‘Participation in planning: Lessons from the green bans’ (2013) 30 Environmental and Planning Law Journal 93

Conditions of the Award:

The Award

  1. The Executive of the ANZLHS will award the prize to the author or authors whose published book, chapter, essay, or article has, in the judgment of the ANZLHS Executive, made the most significant contribution to the field of legal history in relation to Australasia since the award of the last prize.


  1. In order to be eligible authors must be a current member of the ANZLHS.
  2. Eligible authors includes those who write in the field of legal history in Australasia (broadly defined). In any cases of uncertainty as to eligibility, the decision of the Executive of the ANZLHS as to whether a work qualifies for the award is final.
  3. In order to be eligible, the award must bear a publication date of the calendar year immediately prior to the year in which the award is to be made. For example, if the award is made in 2017, the publication must bear the date 2016.

 Administration and Adjudication

  1. Nominations can be made by anyone. Nominations must be in writing. Nominations must be sent to both the current President and the current Secretary of the ANZLHS. Their email addresses can be found on the Society’s webpage.
  2. The award will be judged by the current Executive of the ANZLHS. For these purposes the Executive comprises the President, Vice-President, Australian Treasurer, New Zealand Treasurer, Immediate Past President, Secretary and the Editor of Law&History.
  3. The Executive may delegate any tasks with relation to this award to other persons.
  4. The Executive decision will be made by a majority vote and will not be open to review.
  5. Where a member of the Executive has been nominated for the award, that member will abstain from voting on the award and will not be present when the Executive is considering the nominations.
  6. The submission of nominations should be received no later than September. The award will be announced at the AGM in December. Nominations should be sent to the president, preferably by email.