13 June 2019

JOURNAL: American Journal of Legal History LIX (2019), Issue 2

(image source: OUP)

‘Africa Needs Many Lawyers Trained for the Need of their Peoples’: Struggles over Legal Education in Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana (John Harrington; Ambreena Manji)
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the setting up of university law schools in many African nations led to often bitter battles over the purpose of legal education. The stakes in these struggles were high. Deliberately neglected under colonial rule, legal education was an important focus for the leaders of new states, including Kwame Nkrumah, first President of Ghana. It was also a significant focus for expatriate British scholars and American foundations, seeking to shape the development of new universities in Africa. Disputes centred on whether training would have a wholly academic basis, and be taught exclusively in the University of Ghana, or be provided in addition through a dedicated law school with a more practical ethos. This debate became entangled in a wider confrontation over academic freedom between Nkrumah’s increasing authoritarian government and the university, with its significant body of expatriate lecturers, and indeed in wider political and class struggles in Ghana as a whole. Tensions came to a head in the period between 1962 and 1964 when the American Dean of Law was deported along with other staff on the foot of allegations of their seditious intent. In this paper we document these complex struggles, identifying the broader political stakes within them, picking out the main, rival philosophies of legal education which animated them, and relating all of these to the broader historical conjuncture of decolonisation. Drawing on a review of archival materials from the time, published histories and memoirs, as well as interviews, we aim to show that debates over legal education had a significance going beyond the confines of the Law Faculty. They engaged questions of African nationalism, development and social progress, the ambivalent legacy of British rule and the growing influence of the United States in these territories.
“Full Justice May Be Done Them”: The Case of Bill, Charles, Jupiter, Randolph, et al. v. William A. Carr in a Florida Freedmen’s Bureau Court (Zachary Newkirk)
Immediately after the Civil War, freedmen and freedwomen faced an uncertain legal landscape, caught between former owners, reactionary state courts, and a still-potent federal military presence. A system of federal Freedmen’s Bureau courts provided many freedpeople with a forum to seek justice outside of often-hostile state courts. A remarkably complete set of documents from one Bureau Court in Leon County, Florida, reveals the extent to which freedpeople and local white legal elites used the new federal court for their respective benefits. The case of Bill, Charles, Jupiter, Randolph, et al. v. William A. Carr provides a new analytical framework to consider the post-Civil War legal landscape in the South. Not only were freedpeople eager to appear before these federal tribunals, but Southern white lawyers—facing immense political uncertainty in 1865 and 1866—were willing to practice in Bureau courts. Both groups’ legal arguments reflected the most pressing issues of the time: fair contracting and compensation for freedpeoples’ labor; the desire for societal order and stability; and competing notions of subjugation over a recently enslaved group versus justice and equality for them. The success of black people in gaining access to the legal system benefited local white communities and especially white professional lawyers through fees, career advancement, and reputation. Meanwhile, the success of white lawyers in forums like the Bureau courts benefited freedmen, presenting them with skilled allies in new judicial spaces where their rights and freedoms could be articulated, defended, and advanced.
Fraud and Dishonesty in King’s Bench and Star Chamber (Henry Mares)
This article considers various fraud-related misdemeanours in English criminal law. Based on extensive archival research, it discusses a set of prosecutions by the Attorneys-General in seventeenth-century England in Star Chamber and King’s Bench in order to understand the use and meaning of the concepts of fraud and dishonesty in the early modern period.
Justice under Administration: An Overview of Judiciary and Courts in Spain, 1834–1870 (Julia Solla)
This paper offers an overview of the administration of justice in Spain between 1834 and 1868, a period politically marked by the reign of Isabel II and legally characterised by a homogeneous understanding of the instrumental role of justice within the framework of political powers. This stage was crucial for the construction of contemporary Spanish judicial power, since in the 1830s the judicature of a state conceived as European only (i.e. no longer a transatlantic empire) began to be restructured, while in 1870, a judicial administration recognisable to contemporaries in spite of its transformations was finally designed and consolidated. Within this context, this article provides some guidelines and keys to help unravel the complexity of this judicial construct, transcending a mere ‘political’ explanation and delving into other illuminating areas, such as legal culture, the concept of legality, the magistracy’s role and institutional practices. This approach demonstrates that, among other possible options, the decision was made to transform the inherited judiciary into an apparatus ruled by administrative logics, which gradually made possible the implementation of a legal order and only much later would acquire a genuine constitutional status.
Re-tying the Knot? Remarriage and Divorce by Consent in mid-Victorian England (Penelope Russell)
This article examines the life circumstances of the mid-Victorian women who petitioned for dissolution of their marriage by commencing proceedings for nullity or divorce at the Court for Divorce and Matrimonial Causes in two sample years, 1858 and 1868. The results of a longitudinal analysis of multiple source records relating to the women petitioners challenge currently accepted understandings of these proceedings. Contrary to official reports at the time, the majority of female petitioners in the sample years remarried and did so promptly, suggesting that the ability to regularise new unions (current or prospective) was an important consideration for them. The conduct of proceedings, considered in the context of the social and economic circumstances of the parties (including their age, occupation, and family size), reveals a heretofore undiscovered prevalence of undefended divorce and suggests, in effect, a tacitly accepted practice of divorce by consent.

Book reviews:

  •  Xavier Prévost, Jacques Cujas (1522-1590). Jurisconsulte humaniste (Xavier Godin)
  • Martti Koskenniemi, Walter Rech, and Manuel Jiménez Fonseca (eds.), International Law and Empire: Historical Explorations (Alberto Rinaldi)
  • Johannes Liebrecht, Die junge Rechtsgeschichte: Kategorienwandel in der rechtshistorischen Germanistik der Zwischenkriegszeit (Kjel A Modéer)
  • Carlos Petit, Historia del derecho mercantil (Luisa Brunori; Olivier Descamps)
(source: OUP)

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