Membership of the Society is open to anyone. Our Society includes members of the judiciary, practising lawyers, academic lawyers, historians, students and members of the general public.
The Irish Legal History Society examines, explores and engages with all issues relating to legal history on this island, from earliest times to the present day. Founded in 1988, the Society holds two Discourses annually, as well as publishing scholarly works on a range of legal history subjects. On this website you can see our range of publications, you can find out about our recent and future events, as well as information about joining.
Conference at the Yale Law School, 15-16 April 2016.
Founding moments are landmark events that break ties with the ancien regime and lay the foundation for the establishment of modern states. Founding moments shape national law, influence surrounding countries, establish future power structures and legitimize certain political institutions within the country.
But what exactly is a founding moment? When do we know the “founding” process is over and when do we know it is ongoing? Is it possible to have a founding moment without a new constitution? It is not always easy to identify and define founding moments. The establishment of a new constitutional identity is almost never encompassed in one event—and may span decades in the form of anti-colonial movements, revolutions, civil wars, legitimation crises, power struggles and consolidation processes.
Founding moments sometimes endow certain elements in society—such as revolutionary parties or political leaders—with political legitimacy. A key line of inquiry therefore concerns the relationship between founding moments and “founding figures,” and the extent to which the future of a nation should be guided by the intentions of those who orchestrated these founding moments.
Founding moments moreover are not always a single moment. How does a revolution relate to and influence the promulgation of the constitution? How does the promulgation of the constitution trigger crises in the consolidation process? Is there some danger to the revolutionary fervor being entrenched in words, symbolism and structures in a country’s written constitution?
We might also consider the phenomenon of unfinished foundings, which occur when revolutionary groups overthrow a dictator but not the entire “old guard.” To what extent is an event a founding moment if it is a partial or an unfinished revolution? How do such unfinished foundations influence the identity of the country?
Alexander Herzen described revolutions and national foundings as “pregnant widows”:
The death of contemporary forms of social organization should gladden rather than oppress the soul. But what’s frightening is that the departing world leaves not an heir but a pregnant widow. Between the death of one and the birth of the other much time will go by, a long night of chaos and desolation will have to pass.
Some though not all founding moments occur at tumultuous times in a country’s history. They are bloody revolutions, fierce anti-colonial struggles and decades-long political upheavals. Countries undergoing founding moments—“pregnant widows” in Herzens words—should not be studied only as historical events but also as modern realities that influence and indeed often drive our understanding of law. From Egypt, Libya, Iraq to Nepal, countries around the world are undergoing the birth pangs of founding, constitution and reconstitution—they are waging civil wars, mounting revolutions and writing constitutions.
This conference on founding moments in constitutionalism is an opportunity to address this phenomenon and how it relates to our understanding of law.
Please direct inquiries in connection with this Symposium to:
Associate Professor, Boston College Law School
Visiting Associate Professor, Yale Law School
Yale Law School
The 2015 Annual General Meeting will take place on Friday 27 November at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI). Members will have received A.G.M. documentation by post.
The AGM will be followed by the 2015 Autumn Discourse, which will be delivered by Mr Robert Marshall, outgoing President of the Society. The title of his discourse is: 'Lisnafanna: A Townland in Turmoil on the Headford Cavan Estate 1870-1900'.
The schedule for the evening is as follows:
- 4.30 pm Tour of the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland
- 5.00 pm Tea and coffee
- 5.30 pm Annual General Meeting
- 6.00 pm. Autumn Discourse
The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland is located in Belfast's Titanic Quarter, one mile from the Central Train Station. Train times from Dublin can be found here.
Nearby accommodation includes the Premier Inn Belfast Titanic Quarter
Further information about PRONI can be found here.
Ever wondered what PRONI is like inside? A special guided tour of the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland will be available for those attending the 2015 A.G.M. and Autumn Discourse.
The tour will begin at 4.30 p.m. on Friday 27 November, and tea and coffee will be served at 5.00.
Non-members and prospective members are very welcome to attend.
The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) is the official archive for Northern Ireland.
Members of the ILHS may be interested to join the Welsh Legal History Society. The society was founded in 1999, and exists to spread knowledge of, and promote research into, the rich history of law in Wales. That history extends from a fascinating medieval indigenous legal system to the specific (sometimes surprising) application of law within Wales in more modern times.
The work of lawyers and commentators with Welsh connections is also addressed by the Society. Its historical interests cover both the doctrinal history of the law and the contextual study of the law in the society in which it operates.
The Society holds lectures and conferences, and publishes annual volumes which are included in the subscription rate of £20 for individuals within Europe, or £30 for individuals further overseas.
For more details about the society, or to join, please see the website www.welshlegalhistory.org or contact:
Professor T.G. Watkin
School of Law
Click HERE for membership form.
The first volume Sir William Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England was published 250 years ago. The Yale Law Library is marking the anniversary with an exhibition, “250 Years of Blackstone’s Commentaries.” The exhibition is curated by Wilfrid Prest of Adelaide and Michael Widener, the Rare Book Librarian at the Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School, and consists of more than 40 items, all from the Yale Law Library’s collection, depicting the origins of the Commentaries, its remarkable success as a textbook, and its impact on both legal and popular culture.
The items include a volume annotated by one of Blackstone’s students, a legal treatise with Blackstone’s own handwritten marginalia, the first English editions of the Commentaries, early Irish and American pirated editions, abridgments, teaching aids, student manuscripts, critiques, translations (into French, German, Italian, and Chinese), and a 1963 liquor advertisement.
From September -November this travelling exhibition will be available to view at the Middle Temple Library in London, details of which can be found here.
Our 2013 volume Lawyers, the Law and History, edited by Felix M Larkin and Norma Dawson, has recently received favourable reviews in both the James Joyce Quarterly ('superbly edited') and the Law Quarterly Review ('well-researched').
The Organising Committee of the 4th Biennal Conference and the Executive Council of the European Society for Comparative Legal History are pleased to call for papers for the upcoming conference to be held on 28 June – 1 July 2016 at the University of Gdańsk (Poland) on: “Culture, Identity and Legal Instrumentalism”. The main theme picks up threads of thought from the earlier ESCLH conferences in Valencia (2010), Amsterdam (2012) and Macerata (2014).
The conference will focus on the issue of law as an instrument of transforming reality in the individual cultural circles and sub-circles of Europe and the world. Papers addressing this theme are welcome.
1. To offer a paper, please send the title of their paper, a short abstract (of 200-400 (strict maximum) words) and a short CV (no more than 4 pages) by 15 November 2015 to the organizing committee, c/o Anna Klimaszewska, University of Gdańsk (email@example.com) or Michał Gałędek, University of Gdańsk (firstname.lastname@example.org).
2. The presentations should be in English.
3. It is also possible to submit a complete proposal for one or more panels (3-4 papers for every panel).
4. The list of accepted papers will be announced by 6 December 2015.
Shortly, a conference website will be launched with fuller details.
W.N. Osborough's The Irish Stage: A Legal History (Four Courts Press 2015) was successfully launched by Judge Bryan MacMahon at Books Upstairs, Dublin, on Thursday 8 October.
Judge MacMahon is a former judge of the High Court and Chairman of the Board of the Abbey Theatre, and spoke enthusiastically about the book.
Professor Osborough explained that the idea for this book had originated while he was conducting research for Law and the Emergence of Modern Dublin: A Litigation Topography for a Capital City, during the 1990s.
The launch was well-attended by members of the Society and others with an interest in law, literature and theatre, and Books Upstairs provided a marvellous venue.
The Attorney general for Northern Ireland, John Larkin QC, presented a lecture entitled 'The rise and fall of the Irish Manor Courts 1785-1859' on Thursday 17 September 2015, at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.
Further details about the event may be found here.
Professor Jane Ohlmeyer, a member of the ILHS Council, has recently been appointed Chair of the Irish Research Council. Professor Ohlmeyer is the Erasmus Smith Professor of Modern History at Trinity and a Fellow of the College.
Further details about the IRC can be found here: http://www.research.ie/
The latest edition of the Law and History Review:
To Make All Children Equal is a Change in the Power Structures of Society: The Politics of Family Law in Twentieth Century Chile and Latin America (Nara Milanich)
Binding in Conscience: Early Modern English Protestants and Spanish Thomists on Law and the Fate of the Soul (Richard J. Ross)
- Inexperienced Humanitarians? William Wilberforce, William Pitt, and the Execution Crisis of the 1780s (Simon Devereaux)
- The Internal Forum of the Later Middle Ages. A Modern Myth? (Wolfgang P. Müller)
- “Amphibious Power”: The Law of Wreck, Maritime Customs, and Sovereignty in Richelieu's France (Francesca Trivellato)
- Legal Pluralism and the English East India Company in the Straits of Malacca during the Early Nineteenth Century (Nurfadzilah Yahaya)
- Environmental Law and the End of the New Deal Order (Paul Sabin)
Further information about the Review and how to access articles is available here.
The European Society of International Law's Interest Group on History of International Law's 2015 workshop will take place in Oslo from 10-12 September.
This forms part of the upcoming XI ESIL Annual Conference on "The Judicialization of International Law - A Mixed Blessing?").
Two panels have been composed from over 30 submissions. Details are available here