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18 February 2014

BLOG: Colonial Comparative Legal History

I was recently reminded of the interesting work on Colonial Case Law being done by Bruce Kercher and Peter Bullock at Macquarie University in Australia:

R. v. Petty, 1849
This site is devoted to uncovering the hidden case law of the British empire's colonial courts. The overall aim is to encourage the development of a comparative legal history of the British empire. The more we study the case law of the empire's courts, the more we see that it was characterised by a pluralist web of influence rather than one way traffic from London downwards. The judges often served in more than one colony, and took their previous experience with them when they travelled to a new place. The local people in each of the colonies often developed their own approaches to the law, which they sometimes managed to have elevated into formal case law. According to reception of law principles, the empire's law ought to have been fundamentally English. It was usually that, but not always. The term imperial might better describe the empire's law, except that it carries implications of strict hierarchical authority which was often lacking in practice. At least until the middle of the nineteenth century, the empire's restrictions were sometimes more a matter of form than substance.

The site is, however, no longer limited to British cases. Those like me who wish to see more dialogue between traditional, European comparative legal history and other varieties more informed by cultural studies, post-colonialism, social sciences, would do well to have a look. 

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