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Distributed for University of British Columbia Press

The Grand Experiment

Law and Legal Culture in British Settler Societies

Distributed for University of British Columbia Press

The Grand Experiment

Law and Legal Culture in British Settler Societies

The essays in this volume reflect the exciting new directions in which legal history in the settler colonies of the British Empire has developed. The contributors show how local life and culture in selected settlements influenced, and was influenced by, the ideology of the rule of law that accompanied the British colonial project. Exploring themes of legal translation, local understandings, judicial biography, and “law at the boundaries,” they examine the legal cultures of dominions in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand to provide a contextual and comparative account of the “incomplete implementation of the British constitution” in these colonies.

416 pages

Law and Society

Table of Contents


Introduction: Does Law Matter? The New Colonial Legal History / Benjamin L. Berger, Hamar Foster, and A.R. Buck

Part 1: Authority at the Boundaries of Empire

1 Libel and the Colonial Administration of Justice in Upper Canada and New South Wales, c. 1825-30 / Barry Wright

2 The Limits of Despotic Government at Sea / Bruce Kercher

3 One Chief, Two Chiefs, Red Chiefs, Blue Chiefs: Newcomer Perspectives on Indigenous Leadership in Rupert’s Land and the North-West Territories / Janna Promislow

4 Rhetoric, Reason, and the Rule of Law in Early Colonial New South Wales / Ian Holloway, Simon Bronitt, and John Williams

5 Sometimes Persuasive Authority: Dominion Case Law and English Judges, 1895-1970 / Jeremy Finn

Part 2: Courts and Judges in the Colonies

6 Courts, Communities, and Communication: The Nova Scotia Supreme Court on Circuit, 1816-50 / Jim Phillips and Philip Girard

7 Fame and Infamy: Two Men of the Law in Colonial New Zealand / David V. Williams

8 Moving in an “Eccentric Orbit”: The Independence of Judge Algernon Sidney Montagu in Van Diemen’s Land, 1833-47 / Stefan Petrow

9 “Not in Keeping with the Traditions of the Cariboo Courts”: Courts and Community Identity in Northeastern British Columbia, 1920-50 / Jonathan Swainger

Part 3: Property, Politics, and Petitions in Colonial Law

10 Starkie’s Adventures in North America: The Emergence of Libel Law / Lyndsay M. Campbell

11 The Law of Dower in New South Wales and the United States: A Study in Comparative Legal History / A.R. Buck and Nancy E. Wright

12 Contesting Prohibition and the Constitution in 1850s New Brunswick / Greg Marquis

13 From Humble Prayers to Legal Demands: The Cowichan Petition of 1909

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