Osborough Prize


The the rules for the Osborough Prize are currently under revision and that the prize will not be awarded again until 2024.


The Irish Legal History Society awards the W.N. Osborough Composition Prize in Legal History. The purpose of this prize is to encourage and promote high-quality research in Irish legal history.

This prize is awarded to a member of the Irish Legal History Society who has written a composition that is deemed to have made a significant contribution to the field of Irish Legal History. The winner receives a commemorative framed parchment and €500 . The nomination form can be downloaded here.

The prize is named after Professor W.N. Osborough in recognition of his outstanding contribution to Irish Legal History. Professor Osborough is regarded as a leading Irish legal historian, and was a founding member of the Irish Legal History Society in 1988, and served as President from 2000 until 2003. He continued as an active member of the Society until his retirement from Council in 2010. Professor Osborough is the author of Law and the Emergence of Modern Dublin: A Litigation Topography for a Capital City (1996); Studies in Irish Legal History (1999); Literature, Judges and the Law (2008), and Borstal in Ireland: Custodial Provision for the Young Adult Offender, 1906-1974 (1975). He has edited several essay collections, and published numerous articles and essays dealing with a variety of areas of Irish legal history, including legal publishing, legal bibliography, sources of Irish legal history, constitutional history, canon law, the popery acts, administrative history, Catholics and the law, law and literature, law and literacy, property disputes, the history of the legal profession and Brehon laws. He served as editor of the Irish Jurist. Professor Osborough taught at Queen’s University Belfast, and was Dean of the Faculty of Law both Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin, where he continues as Emeritus Professor in the School of Law.


  • The competition is open to all fully paid members (including student members) of the Irish Legal History Society with the exception of current members of the Council of the Society.
  • The composition must be nominated by a member of the Society. Members of the Society may nominate a composition that they themselves have authored or co-authored or may nominate compositions written by other persons.
  • Eligible compositions should deal wholly or substantially with any aspect of Irish legal history. ‘Legal history’ is to be broadly interpreted as including: the development or history of legal rules, legal institutions, legal procedures or the legal profession; biographical sketches of legal personalities; the development of legal theories or ideas; comparative legal history.
  • Nominees must send a completed nomination form together the composition to one of the Honorary Secretaries by email before the expiry of the closing date for nominations. The closing date will be posted on the Society’s website.
  • If the nominated composition is accepted for further consideration, the nominee may be required to provide additional hard copies for use by the judging panel. The Association regrets that it cannot return any copies provided.
  • Compositions must be between 5,000 and 25,000 words in length, including footnotes, in order to be eligible.
  • Compositions that are jointly authored by more than one person are eligible.
  • The prize may be divided between co-authors of a single work or between the authors of separate works that are deemed to be of equal merit.
  • Published and unpublished compositions are eligible provided that they are original works. Published compositions must have been published in the 36 months preceding the closing date for nominations.
  • Compositions previously entered for the prize are not eligible for consideration.
  • Reprinted compositions are not eligible for consideration.
  • The judging panel will be nominated by the President of the Irish Legal History Society. The decision of the judging panel on eligibility and any other matter arising from the competition shall be final.
  • The award will typically be offered every two years. The Society reserves the right not to make an award in a given year.


  • Please submit your composition electronically, via email, to one of the joint secretaries: Mr Paul Egan (pegan@mhc.ie) or Dr David Capper (d.capper@qub.ac.uk). All entries must be word-processed.
  • Please include a completed nomination form.
  • Please do not include your name or other identifying information in the body of the composition.
  • Please ensure that you comply with the conditions of eligibility detailed above.
  • The annual deadline for the submission of entries is 31 January.
  • Questions or queries about the competition may be directed to one of the joint secretaries

Past Recipients of the Prize

The 2017 Osborough Prize was awarded to solicitor and recent UCD graduate Mr Michael Sinnott for his article  “The Appellate Jurisdiction of the Houses of Lords of Ireland and Great Britain: Chief Baron Jeffrey Gilbert’s Role in the Annesley v Sherlock Affair”, published in volume 16 of the University College Dublin Law Review.

In 2013  the Society  presented the W.N. Osborough Composition Prize in Irish Legal History to Dr Maebh Harding, a lecturer at the University of Portsmouth, for her article ‘The Curious Incident of the MarriagDr Patrick Geoghegan and Dr Maebh Harding on the presentation of the Osborough Prizee Act (No.2) 1537 and the Irish Statute Book’.

Dr Harding graduated from UCD in 2005 with a BCL (Law with French Law) and in 2008 completed a PhD thesis in UCD, entitled ‘The Legal Definition of Marriage in Ireland in the 21st Century: A Comparative analysis of Common Law and Civil Law’.’