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 the island of Ireland, 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. We are proud to partner with Queen’s University Belfast to host the British Legal History Conference 2022.
To honour the life and legacy of the distinguished judge and legal historian (and a former President of the Society), Sir Anthony Hart, the Benchers of the Inn of Court in Northern Ireland have organised an annual memorial lecture.
The inaugural Sir Anthony Hart Memorial Lecture will take place on Thursday 11 November 2021 at 18.15 in the Inn of Court of Northern Ireland. The lecture will be given by Justice of the United Kingdom Supreme Court, The Right Honourable Lord Stephens of Creevyloughgare on ‘1798: a tale of two barristers’.
Lord Stephens was one of Sir Anthony’s pupils at the Bar.
Numbers are unfortunately restricted, but you are invited to watch online.
To register, and receive a login details, please email Lisa Mayes at Lisa.Mayes@barofni.org by 5pm on 22 October 2021.
LAW AND CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGE
Queen’s University, Belfast
6-9 July 2022
The 25th British Legal History Conference 2022 In association with the Irish Legal History Society Queen’s University, Belfast 6-9 July 2022
The closing date for submission of abstracts has been extended until Monday 27 September
The Call For Papers and all other conference information can be found here.
The Irish Legal History Society is pleased to announce that the Postdoctoral Bursary for 2021 has been awarded to Dr Lia Brazil of Nuffield College, Oxford.
Dr Brazil is a postdoctoral fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford, as part of the AHRC funded project ‘International NGOs in the Long Humanitarian Century’ (2021 – 2024). She completed her BA at Trinity College Dublin, her MA in European History at UCD, and her PhD in History at the European University Institute, Florence. Her PhD research looked at the history of international law in the British Empire, focusing on the South African War (1899 – 1902) and the Irish struggle for independence (1916 – 1923).
Her current research project looks at efforts made by the republican faction during the Irish civil war to appeal for international humanitarian intervention on behalf of interned prisoners. In particular it concentrates on delegations of Irish women, who travelled to Geneva to petition on behalf of these prisoners under international humanitarian law. She will use the research grant to explore the legal appeals they made to the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.
John L Leckey
The Society deeply regrets to note the death of John L Leckey on 5 August 2021. He served as Joint Honorary Treasurer of the Society, based in Belfast, from 1993 to 2000.
John was admitted to the Roll of Solicitors in Northern Ireland in 1974 and was appointed HM Coroner for Greater Belfast in 1993. He subsequently served as Senior Coroner for Northern Ireland until his retirement in 2015. He presided over a number of a number of difficult inquests, always with his innate courtesy.
John was an author together with Professor Desmond Greer QC (hon.), of Coroners' Law and Practice in Northern Ireland which deals with the law and practice relating to coroners in Northern Ireland with appropriate reference to developments in Ireland.
The Society extends its condolences to John’s wife Janet and their sons Simon and Peter.
His obituary in The Irish Times can be read here.
The council and membership of the society was deeply saddened to hear of the death of Judge Mary Kotsonouris on 2 February 2021.
In addition to a career at the bar, on the bench, and a number of post-judicial appointments, she wrote an ILHS monograph,
The Winding Up of the Dáil Courts 1922-1925: An Obvious Duty, published in 2004 by Four Courts Press.
An obituary was recently published in the Irish Times
(The Irish Times - Mary Kotsonouris obituary)
By Professor Patrick Geoghegan, President of the Irish Legal History Society
The Irish Legal History Society mourns the death of its founder, and former President, Professor W.N. Osborough MRIA, a wonderful friend and colleague, an inspiring teacher, and a giant in the world of Irish legal history scholarship.
As a distinguished lawyer and judge and former President of the Society has recognised: ‘Another great oak has fallen in the forest. We are unlikely to see his like again. He was a most distinguished scholar, a polymath, a renaissance man.’
It was Professor Osborough’s vision and determination that led to the creation of the Irish Legal History Society in 1988 and he established a steering group to draft the constitution, arranged the financial and administrative structure, devised a publicity campaign, and planned the publishing programme. From the beginning one of the greatest strengths of the Society was the all-Ireland nature of the organisation and many have commented on the connections it has fostered between historians and practising lawyers North and South over the past thirty-three years. It is one part of his remarkable legacy.
Nial epitomised all that is good about the Irish Legal History Society and from the very beginning we all benefitted from his intellectual curiosity and dynamism, the generous way he shared his unrivalled knowledge, and his friendship and support. In recent years we have honoured his contribution with the W.N. Osborough Composition Prize in Legal History and we plan to celebrate his immense contribution to the Society and to Irish legal history scholarship when this pandemic is over. Many tributes have been paid to him in recent days by former students and colleagues. For example, a former Attorney General for Northern Ireland mourned the loss of ‘this brilliant and loveable man, whose performative delight in our law was an enchantment’. A Pro Chancellor of the University of Dublin remembered ‘the gentleness of his manner and the breadth and acuity of his scholarship.’
Professor Osborough’s achievements go far beyond his contribution to the Society. Over many decades thousands of students benefitted from his erudition and scholarship and from the incredible way he was able to get people excited about whatever he was teaching, first at Queen’s University Belfast, then University College Dublin, moving to Trinity College Dublin, before returning to University College Dublin where he served as Dean of the School of Law. One of his former students has noted that ‘He taught a generation of Queen’s law students to think, probably for the first time. We certainly are in his debt. He even made a connection in one lecture, I remember, between John Stuart Mill and violin playing. I am not sure if anyone else has managed this.’
As a scholar Professor Osborough was remarkable. A former editor of The Irish Jurist, his books include a history of the UCD Law School, a legal history of the Irish Stage, and a litigation topography for Dublin, as well as many ground-breaking articles. Upon hearing of his death, an Irish Supreme Court judge noted that ‘His contribution to legal history in Ireland was simply immense, but that should not obscure his legacy as a lawyer . He published an article in or around 1976 on Irish practice in relation to suspended sentences which was an admirable piece of scholarship and which was still being cited in judgments in recent years’.
Shortly before his own death, Judge Adrian Hardiman wrote in the Dublin Review of Books of how he ‘remembers with appreciation his [Professor W.N. Osborough’s] vivid treatment of the law of torts in University College Dublin in the early 1970s’ before going on to say that ‘his distinguishing feature is that his cultural hinterland is much broader than that of the average lawyer or law teacher and to my mind his legal insights are much the sharper and the more realistic for that.’
Professor Osborough was a brilliant scholar who inspired many generations of students with his insights and imagination. The Irish Legal History Society will never forget his friendship, his many kindnesses, or his remarkable contribution to legal history scholarship.
We offer our condolences to his children, his wider family, and his many friends and colleagues. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.
Mr Justice Donal O'Donnell and Prof Patrick Geoghegan speaking in remembrance of Prof Nial Osborough before the Spring 2021 Discourse can be viewed here.
Irish Times, 9 January 2021
The Irish Legal History Society is saddened to hear of the death of Lord Kerr of Tonaghmore.
A graduate of Queen's University Belfast, Lord Kerr became a High Court judge in 1993 and was Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland from 2004 to 2009. He served as a judge of the UK Supreme Court from 2009 until his retirement in 2020.
Lord Kerr was a patron of the Irish Legal History Society and a frequent contributor to the Society's events.
Instead of the usual format of an AGM followed by a distinguished lecture, this year the ILHS is holding a virtual AGM, followed by a zoom webinar. All members and non-members are welcome to attend the webinar, which takes place on Thursday 10 December at 7.30 pm.
Please click here to join our panel to discuss
‘Researching and Writing Irish Legal History in the 21st Century’
Dr. Lynsey Black (Maynooth University)
Dr. Sparky Booker (Queen's University Belfast)
Dr. Coleman Dennehy (University College Dublin)
Dr. Niamh Howlin (University College Dublin)
A video of the event can be watched HERE.
Dr Lynsey Black is an assistant professor at Maynooth Unniversity. She researches in the areas of gender and punishment, the death penalty, historical criminology, and postcolonial criminology. Lynsey is currently PI on the IRC New Foundations project, 'Living Borders: Cattle Smuggling on the Ireland/Northern Ireland Border'. This research is being done in collaboration with the National Museum of Ireland and explores border criminality through the 20th century. Lynsey was a Visiting Researcher at the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History in 2019. She has published in Punishment and Society, Law and History Review, and the Social History of Medicine, and is co-editor of the collection, Law and Gender in Modern Ireland, with Hart Publishing. She is currently working on her first monograph, Women, Murder and the Death Penalty in Ireland, 1922-64, with Manchester University Press.
Dr Sparky Booker is a lecturer in medieval Irish history at Queen's University Belfast. Before she took this post in 2016, she was a postdoctoral research associate at Swansea University, on the AHRC-funded project 'Women negotiating the boundaries of Justice, Britain and Ireland, c. 1100-1750' (womenhistorylaw.org.uk). Her current research examines female plaintiffs in the secular and ecclesiastical courts of Ireland from c. 1350- c.1530, and focuses particularly on litigant strategies, overlapping jurisdictions, and the influence of wealth, status, ethnicity, and gender on women's legal activities. Her doctoral research explored interactions between the English of Ireland and Irish in the later middle ages. She is the co-editor of Tales of Medieval Dublin Dublin, (Four Courts Press, 2014).
Dr Coleman Dennehy has previously taught at Maynooth, Limerick, UCD and University College London, and was a visiting scientific researcher at the Max Planck Institute in Frankfurt and a visiting professor at the Faculty of Law, University of Vienna. Coleman He received an IRC Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow for his project, ‘Competing jurisdictions: appellate justice in the Dublin and Westminster parliaments, 1603 – c.1730’. He has published many articles and chapters, as well as Restoration Ireland: Always Settling and Never Settled (Routledge); The Irish Parliament, 1613-89 (Manchester University Press); Henry Bennet, Earl of Arlington, and his World: Restoration Court, Politics and Diplomacy (Routledge; with Robin Eagles). Coleman has also edited The Evolution of a Colonial Institution; Law and Revolution in Seventeenth-Century Ireland (Four Courts Press).
Dr Niamh Howlin is an Associate Professor at UCD and her publications include Juries in Ireland: Laypersons and Law in the Long Nineteenth Century (Four Courts Press) as well as articles in the Journal of Legal History, the Law and History Review, Comparative Legal History, and the American Journal of Legal History. She has also edited, with Dr Kevin Costello, Law and the Family in Ireland 1800-1950 (Palgrave Macmillan) and Law and Religion in Ireland (Palgrave Macmillan; forthcoming 2021). Niamh also works on contemporary legal issues and in 2020 published an empirical study on judge-jury relations with colleagues from UCD and Sheffield Hallam. She is currently working on a history of the Irish Bar.
Opportunity for Early-Career Scholars
The J. Willard Hurst Summer Institute in Legal History is a biennial event sponsored by the American Society for Legal History.
An ASLH committee reviews applications and selects 12 early career scholars from around the world as Institute Fellows. The Fellows participate in seminars, meet other legal historians, and present their own work. The program is structured but informal, and features discussions of core readings in legal history and analysis of the work of the participants in the Institute.
Scholars in law, history and other disciplines pursuing research on legal history of any part of the world and all time periods are eligible to apply. The seminar and written materials are conducted in English, and we cannot consider non-anglophone applications. Traditionally, the selection committee has sought to create a cohort of fellows with varying degrees of familiarity with the field, and welcome applications from scholars at an early stage of their career (beginning faculty members, doctoral students who have completed or almost completed their dissertations, and J.D. graduates).
Applications for the eleventh Hurst Summer Institute, which will take place from 13-26 June 2021, will be accepted until 15 January 2021. Applicants should be aware that it is possible that the 2021 session may be held remotely. (A decision will likely be made by the end of March).
Applications must include a cover letter, CV, and research agenda (of no more than 2,500 words) as a single PDF document. Submit your application any time between 1 December 2020 and 15 January 2021. Additionally, two letters of recommendation should be submitted on each applicant’s behalf by the January 15 deadline. Questions on the application process can be directed to email@example.com.
The 2021 Institute will be chaired by Lauren Benton, Barton M. Biggs Professor of History and Professor of Law at Yale University, and Sarah Barringer Gordon, Arlin M. Adams Professor of Constitutional Law and Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania.
Previous Hurst Institute sessions were led by distinguished legal history scholars, Lawrence Friedman (Stanford University), Robert W. Gordon (Yale and Stanford), Barbara Young Welke (University of Minnesota), Hendrik Hartog (Princeton University), and Mitra Sharafi (University of Wisconsin).
2020 may be a good year to attend an international conference without the need to travel.
The American Society of Legal History annual conference will be held on 13 and 14 November. The online program features a carefully curated selection of exciting panels on the legal history of colonialism, slavery and abolition, immigration, and other topics.
You can find the full program here.
Register here. Registration is free for all ASLH members, and you must be a member to attend.
The Fire Courts: Successfully Delivering Justice in a Time of Plague and Fire
Prof Jay Tidmarsh, Notre Dame Law School
The Selden Society and the Inns of Court have joined forces to establish a new series of annual lectures open to scholars, students and the general public to show the relevance of a wider understanding of Legal History.
Click here to watch the recording of Professor Jay Tidmarsh in conversation with His Honour Donald Cryan for the first Selden Society and the Inns of Court annual lecture on 21 October 2020