27 January 2022

BOOK: Felice BATLAN & Marianne VASARA-AALTONEN (Eds.), Histories of Legal Aid. A Comparative and International Perspective (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2021). ISBN: 978-3-030-80270-7, pp. 330


This book focuses on the history of the provision of legal aid and legal assistance to the poor in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in eight different countries. It is the first such book to bring together historical work on legal aid in a comparative perspective, and allows readers to analogise and contrast historical narratives about free legal aid across countries. Legal aid developed as a result of industrialisation, urbanization, immigration, the rise of philanthropy, and what were viewed as new legal problems. Closely related, was the growing professionalisation of lawyers and the question of what duties lawyers owed society to perform free work. Yet, legal aid providers in many countries included lay women and men, leading at times to tensions with the bar. Furthermore, legal aid often became deeply politicized, creating dramatic conflicts concerning the rights of the poor to have equal access to justice.


Felice Batlan is Professor of Law and affiliated Professor of the Humanities at IIT Chicago-Kent, USA.  She is the author of the award-winning Women and Justice for the Poor: A History of Legal Aid, 1863-1945 (2015). Her research focuses on the legal history of women and gender in the U.S. and internationally.

Marianne Vasara-Aaltonen is University Lecturer in Legal History at the University of Helsinki, Finland. She is the author of Learning Law and Travelling Europe: Study Journeys and the Developing Swedish Legal Profession (2020), and several articles on the history of legal education, the legal profession, and the courts.


Available here.

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