Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Historian in the 'hood -- and other legal histories

Charlotte Gray's new book The Massey Murder is about a done-wrong servant girl who shot one of the Masseys on his own doorstep in 1915 -- and (not a spoiler, I hope) got away with it at trial. Charlotte G. may have found the perfect window into that elusive subject, Toronto and how it got that way. True crime, social class, gender, money and power and politics, and a courtroom drama -- I've been looking forward to it.  Turns out she is promoting the book tonight at the library just down the road from me in Toronto.  Go, Charlotte.

I'd been kinda reserving note of that book for a general note about this fall's books from the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, but here goes.  The Society, which has done an extraordinary work in creating legal history as a thriving field in this country, mostly publishes works that are pretty scholarly and specialized, as they should be. This is one of the years they have some mass-market vavoom too.  The Massey Murder is an Osgoode Society co-publication, and so is another window on Toronto, Lawyers, Families and Businesses by Ian Kyer, of which we took note a while ago.  Kyer's subject is the Beattys, Blackstocks, and Chadwicks, a crowd of lawyers from old-money Toronto, and what happened to the families and the law practice early in the twentieth century when a whirlwind of new money from Northern Ontario mining blew through it.

A third OS book this year is the Roy McMurtry memoir, Memoirs and Reflections. That would move a heap of copies even if only Roy's close friends bought it. Among his many other achievements, McMurtry founded and built up the Osgoode Society, as one of his chapters recounts.

The fourth OS book and the most scholarly this year is the eleventh in its Essays in Canadian Legal History series, this time a collection edited by Blaine Baker and Donald Fyson on legal history questions on the Province of Canada -- that is, Ontario and Quebec pre-confederation.  A little less buzzy than the others, maybe, but gonna be vital for those in the field.

(Conflict alert:  I'm currently working on a project funded through the Osgoode Society, and have friends and colleagues throughout this post, so not entirely dispassionate. So?)
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