Other Events

The 2022 British Legal History Conference (BLHC)


Queen’s University, Belfast
6-9 July 2022



The 25th British Legal History Conference 2022 In association with the Irish Legal History Society Queen’s University, Belfast 6-9 July 2022

The closing date for submission of abstracts has been extended until Monday 27 September



The Irish Legal History Society is delighted to be associated with the British Legal History Conference, which will be held in Belfast in 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” 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.

The full Call for Papers, along with how to submit proposals and (in due course) the programme, can be seen here.
Any queries may be addressed to BLHC-2022-info@qub.ac.uk



‘Law and the Idea of Liberty in Ireland: From Magna Carta to the Present’.

The Irish Legal History Society marked the 800th anniversary of the transmission of Magna Carta to Ireland with a major two-day conference.(2) Extract from Libra Niger re Magna Carta for brochure Magna Carta is one of the most famous documents in the history of the world, credited with being the first effective check in writing on arbitrary, oppressive and unjust rule — in a word, on tyranny. The fame of Magna Carta spread across the world as England, and later Britain, came to girdle the globe in its power.

What is the place of Ireland in the story of Magna Carta’s global dissemination? Four centuries before the Great Charter crossed the Atlantic, it was already implanted across the Irish Sea. A version of the charter issued in November 1216 in the name of the boy-king Henry III was sent to Ireland, where it became fundamental to the English common law tradition in Ireland that survives to the present.

The conference explored the legal-historical background to Magna Carta in Ireland, the reception of the charter into English law in Ireland, the political and polemical uses to which the charter was put, and its twentieth and twentieth-first century invocations as a living presence in contemporary Irish law. Professor Paul Brand (All Souls, Oxford) delivered a keynote address on the impact of Magna Carta on the development of English law in medieval Ireland.

A particular concern of the conference will be to explore the paradoxes presented by the reception of Magna Carta into Irish law, above all the contested and often highly restrictive-idea idea of ‘liberty’ that developed in Ireland from the Middle Ages onwards.

This conference was held in the Music Room of Christ Church Cathedral, which boasts its own copy of Magna Carta in the Liber Niger held in the cathedral treasury.

The papers from the conference can be listened to here.

The full list of the papers is as follows:

– Claire Breay (British Library). ‘Celebrating the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta at the British Library in 2015’
– Seán Duffy (TCD). ‘The political background to Magna Carta: King John and Ireland’
– Peter Crooks (TCD). ‘1216, 1366 and all that: Magna Carta and exclusionary liberties in late medieval Ireland’
– Adrian Empey. ‘Conquest and common law’
– Ian Campbell (QUB). ‘Magna Carta in Irish political theory, 1541–1660’
– Coleman Dennehy (UCD and UCL). ‘Nisi per legale judicium parium suorum: parliament, politics, and the right to trial by peer’
– Colum Kenny (DCU). ‘Myth, Mervyn and the “Irish Magna Carta” of 1662’
– Jimmy Kelly (DCU). ‘Era of Liberty? The politics of political rights in eighteenth- century
– Patrick Geoghegan (TCD). ‘Daniel O’Connell versus the Chartists”
– Tom Mohr (UCD). ‘Liberty in an Irish Free State, 1922–37’
– Bláthna Ruane. ‘Magna Carta and modern Irish constitutionalism’
– John Larkin. ‘Magna Carta and the Irish statute books’


Law and Revolution in Ireland: Law and Lawyers Before, During and After the Cromwellian Interregnum


This conference took place in the Irish House of Lords, Dublin on 27 and 28 November 2014, organised by Dr Coleman Dennehy (University College Dublin / University College London) in association with the Irish Legal History Society, and supported by the ILHS, the Bank of Ireland, UCD Humanities Institute, University College London Department of History, and UCD School of History and Archives. The conference was recorded for podcasting by Real Smart Media and all podcasts are embedded below, and are also available for download via the UCD Humanities Institute podcast series on iTunes.

About the conference: The 1641 rebellion, subsequent wars, and the political change that followed were to have a profound and lasting effect on the island for generations. Recent historiographical trends have seen great strides made in our understanding of the military, political, and religious aspects of this upheaval, but despite some notable work already undertaken, the role of lawyers and the law in this general crisis still warrants further attention. How consistent with the law and the constitution of Ireland was government policy and its main actors in the decade before the rising? What role did the legal community play in the wars and political dynamics of the period? How did the law adapt to the new political realities in Ireland after 1649, and how was it used to effect a restoration of peace and stability after 1660? To what extent do these changes reflect the situation in Scotland and England at the time? These questions and others were considered at the Law and Revolution in Ireland conference.


Podcasts of the other papers can be downloaded from SoundCloud and photos of the conference are available on Flickr.

The full list of papers is as follows:

  • Dr Coleman Dennehy (University College Dublin / University College London) – Appointments to the Irish bench in the early Restoration period.
  • Dr Stephen Carroll (Trinity College Dublin) – Competing authorities: the clash of martial and common law in early seventeenth-century Ireland.
  • Dr Aran McArdle (Trinity College Dublin) – ‘Necessarye to keepe Irelande in Order’: Martial law and the 1641 rebellion.
  • Dr Bríd McGrath (Trinity College Dublin) – Electoral law in Ireland in the early seventeenth century.
  • Dr John Cunningham (Trinity College Dublin / University of Exeter) – Lawyers and the law in the writings of Sir William Parsons.
  • Dr Neil Johnston (Department of Culture, Media & Sport) – Charles II’s legal officers and their influence on the Restoration land settlement in Ireland, 1660-65.
  • Professor James McGuire ( Irish Manuscripts Commission) – Governing Restoration Ireland: the evidence of the proclamations, 1660–70.
  • Dr Andrew Robinson (Northern Ireland Policing Board) – ‘Twixt Treason and Convenience’: Protestant Ireland and the trial of the earl of Strafford.
  • Jennifer Wells (Brown University / Institute of Historical Research) – Scottish and Irish Resistance to Cromwellian Legal Measures.
  • Dr Danielle McCormack (Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań) – The rhetoric of law and the Restoration settlement, c. 1660-2
  • Prof. Andrew Carpenter (University College Dublin) – Lawyers and the circulation of scurrilous verse in Restoration Dublin.
  • Dr John J. Cronin (University College Dublin) – Countering a revolution with law: the role of the Irish royalist elite in the law courts of the exiled Charles II: 1649-1660.
  • Prof. Colum Kenny (Dublin City University) – Shooting stars and survivors: King’s Inns revisited 1648-1661.


Reception of the Irish Legal History Society at Hillsborough Castle

On 6 February 2015 members of the Council of thye Irish Legal History Society were received at Hillsborough Castle in Belfast. The Head of Hillsborough Castle, Mrs Corbett, accepted the donation of the Society’s 23 published volumes on behalf of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. The books will be placed in ‘Lady Grey’s Study, part of the Library Suite in the State Apartments at Hillsborough.


Reception of the Irish Legal History Society by President Higgins

President Higgins received members of the Council of the Irish Legal History Society at Áras an Uachtaráin on 22 May 2014 to mark the conclusion of the 25th anniversary year of the society. The society presented to the President a complete set of the 23 volumes published by the society since its foundation in 1988, for the library he has established at Áras an Uachtaráin.


Welcoming the members of the council, the President said he was delighted to meet with those jurists, legal experts and scholars who had come together in a spirit of professional pride to acknowledge and document a shared history and legal culture. He said that the commitment of the society to ensuring publication of documents and learned works on the history of Irish law allows access to an important part of the narrative of this island. He added that the volumes published by the society are an essential resource for those who wish to engage with the legal history of our island, to understand the complex interplay between the two jurisdictions on the island and to gain an appreciation of the consequences of considerations, decisions and actions that occurred in the past for both our present and our future.

The President said that one of the projects during his incumbency is to develop a library at the Áras which will be a resource for future holders of thRobert Marshall. Picture Conor McCabe Photography.e office, so he was especially grateful to the society for presenting the 23 volumes which it has published. He regarded them as a remarkable collection which would give much pleasure and be a very valuable addition to the Áras library.

In reply, Robert D. Marshall, solicitor and president of the society, expressed the society’s appreciation of President Higgins’ generosity in receiving the council at Áras an Uachtaráin. He noted the importance of the house for all of the traditions on the island, having been at the centre of formal constitutional and legal events for over 200 years. ‘The books’, Marshall said, ‘are the record of endeavours by scholars interested in Irish Legal history to analyse the legal history of all the traditions on this island.’ The authors and editors include historians and lawyers in the universities but also members of the judiciaries and practising lawyers from both jurisdictions. Amongst the authors of books present were Prof. Desmond Greer QC (hon.), Prof Colum Kenny BL and Dr Kevin Costello.

The work of the society could not be accomplished without the contributions of those who edited the volumes and collections of essays, seeking to maintain the high academic standard set by Prof Osborough the first literary editor of the society. The editors present were Daire Hogan who edited Brehons Serjeants and Attorneys with Prof Osborough and Changes in Law and Practice with Prof. Kenny, respectively the first and most recent publications by the society. Other editors present were Dr Kenneth P Ferguson BL and Felix M. Larkin, one of the joint editors of Lawyers, The Law and History.