American Society for Legal History

The American Society for Legal History was founded in 1956 to foster interdisciplinary scholarship and teaching in the broad field of legal history.  Although based in the United States, its purview and membership are international in scope.  The Society sponsors a quarterly journal, the Law and History Review, and a book series, Studies in Legal History, both of which are published for the Society by Cambridge University Press.

The ASLH annual conference takes place in Washington, DC from 29 October –1 Nov. The 2016 conference will be in Toronto.

For general information about the Society  visit or write to:

Professor Sally Hadden
Secretary, American Society for Legal History
4301 Friedmann Hall
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5334 USA
Fax: (269) 387-4651


British Legal History Conference, University of Reading

A number of members of the Society including the President attended the British Legal History Conference at Reading in July 2015.  The theme of the conference was Law: Challenges to Authority and the Recognition of Rights.

The Society provided some of the seed capital for the conference along with the Selde2015-07-08 ABA memorial at Runnymeden Society and the Legal History Society of Wales.  There were a significant number of delegates from the United States and Canada along with a group from Australia.

From Ireland, six members of the ILHS presented papers:-

Dr Donal Coffey, University of Surrey: A reconsideration of the Imperial Conference of 1926 and conference on the operation of dominion legislation 1929

Dr Kevin Costello, UCD: Mandamus and parish politics 1620-1800

Dr Coleman Dennehy, UCD and UCL: Assize Justice in restoration Clonmel2015-07-08c Sir John Baker on Queen of the Thames

Dr Conor Hanley, NUI Galway:

Judgement by one’s peers? 
Radical and trade unionist views of jury trial in Victorian Britain

Dr Niamh Howlin, UCD: 

Challenging authority: criminal justice responses in Ireland

Dr Andrew Lyall: Granville Sharp’s MS Cases on Slavery

The conference included a visit to the site of the sealing of Magna Carta where the event is commemorated by an imposing memorial erected by the American Bar Association. 2015-07-08 ABA memorial at Rummymede Text

This was followed by a paper entitled Magna Carta- the beginning of the Myth delivered Sir John Baker QC, Downing Professor of Laws (Emeritus) at Cambridge, aboard the Queen of the Thames as it cruised the river by the meadow at Runnymede.

Sir John is a gold medallist of the ILHS and has been a member of the Society since its inception.

It was a most enjoyable afternoon
completed with an English cream tea.

Over 70 papers were delivered in a series of sessions over the four days and great credit goes to Professor Catherine Macmillan and her team from the University of Reading for the flawless organisation of the four days.

One feature of the conference was a session at which twelve Ph.D. candidates presented papNiamh H at Readingers on Criminal Justice in Empire, Anglican Ecclesiastical law, Law Religion and Excluded Groups and Processes, Rights and Colonies.

Professor Rebecca Probert of the School of Law at Warwick delivered a fascinating address to a plenary session entitled Victorian Bigamists – Challenging authority or claiming rights?

The next conference will be held at University College London in July 2017.

The exact date of that conference remains to be fixed and a call for papers will be made in due course.

King’s Inns and the Battle of the Books, 1972: Cultural Controversy at a Dublin Library

King’s Inns and the Battle of the Books, 1972: Cultural Controversy at a Dublin Library

By Colum Kenny
Published by  Four Courts Press (Dublin, 2002)

ISBN-10: 1851826866 ISBN-13: 978-1851826865

Kenny recounts a major cultural controversy that marked the recognition of the King’s Inns Library as an important part of the heritage of modern Ireland. In 1972 thousands of non-law books from King’s Inns were sold at Sotheby’s in London. The row that ensued involved many well-known people including Cearbhall O Dalaigh, Mary Robinson and Charles J. Haughey. The sale was criticized as the random dispersal of an irreplaceable collection and it raises vital questions about the proper care of libraries, about the relationship of general knowledge to professional expertise and about the problematic nature of Irish identity in a post-colonial era. The books were sold because King’s Inns was in financial difficulty, a difficulty exacerbated by the fact that the benchers had recently renovated their kitchens. The government was kept informed by the benchers of their plans but failed to respond to a proposal that might have resulted in all of the volumes remaining in Ireland. Kenny suggests means of avoiding acrimony or major controversy in connection with any possible disposal of books by King’s Inns Library in the future.

Law and the emergence of modern Dublin: a litigation topography for a capital city

Law and the emergence of modern Dublin: a litigation topography for a capital city

by WN Osborough

published by the Irish Academic Press in association with the Irish Legal History Society 1996.

ISBN: 0716525836

This book aims to reconstruct part of Dublin’s past from source material of an unconventional and unfamiliar sort: accounts Of lawsuits generated by the evolving fortunes of the city and surrounding district. To enable the significance of these lawsuits to be better understood and to lend coherence to the narrative as a whole, additional explanatory material has been incorporated, drawn principally from general and specialist local histories. But the choice of focus has been dictated by the presence of an inventory of lawsuits with a topographical bias. In his preface, Professor Osborough remarks that he is unaware of the existence of any equivalent published exercise carried out for any other large city. The contents include: introducing litigation topography; defining Dublin; the physical setting; the river, port and bay; re-naming Sackville street; landmark buildings; public utilities; recreation for Dubliners; burying Dubliners; assessment. Complete with a detailed index and tables of cases and statutes, this volume is enhanced by over 100 illustrations in black and white.

Tristram Kennedy and the revival of Irish legal training, 1835-1885

Tristram Kennedy and the revival of Irish legal training, 1835-1885

by Colum Kenny

published by  Irish Academic Press in association with the Irish Legal History Society, 1996.

ISBN: 0716525917

Recalling the existence of an ancient and elaborate system of breton legal education, Kenny notes that little or no training was provided for lawyers within Ireland between the Tudor destruction of Gaelic society and the Victorian era. He describes the political and professional processes which led finally to the revival of legal training in the nineteenth century and the part played in that revival by Tristram Kennedy. Kennedy, a Protestant from Londonderry, established the Carrickmacross lace industry and represented in parliament the Catholic electorate of Louth. An account of his life is included. Particular attention is paid to the Dublin Law Institute which Kennedy founded and which he ran with the active support of the great educational reformer, Thomas Wyse MP. Special chapters are also devoted to the absence of a developed, chamber system in Ireland and to the experiences of those who finally succeeded in having repealed the long-standing requirement that they eat as Daniel O’Connell is said to have put it, ‘so many legs of mutton’ at the English inns.