Saturday, August 18, 2018

Blaine Baker 1952-2018 RIP

The Globe and Mail today has the death notice for McGill law professor and legal historian Blaine Baker, who died last month.

I first encountered Blaine Baker's work through a lively "exchange" he and Paul Romney had in the 1980s, in Ontario History and other journals, The subject was the Upper Canadian "types riot" of 1836, and broadly the whole subject of legal and constitutional ideologies in Upper Canada during the early 19th century.  I was working on early 19th century lawyers at the time, a new field for me then, and found the whole debate pretty impressive about a whole field I'd never before contemplated.

I got the impression from the articles that Blaine Baker (well, Romney too) was a fierce combattant in historical debates; it read like a rather personal exchange. Then I met him, indeed met him many times, mostly under the auspices of the Osgoode Society for Legal History, and was struck mostly by his courtesy, his supportive mentoring personality, and his very collaborative attitude to historical work.  I still kinda take Romney's side in that old debate, but I developed a great admiration for Blaine Baker. Both he and his work were very helpful me to me in many of my legal history projects.  Baker's major works were in the elucidation of legal ideas and legal historiography, perhaps, but as pure historical research I liked his close detailed study of Montreal legal firms and how they functioned in the 19th century, "Ordering the Urban Canadian Law Office and its Entrepreneurial Hinterland, 1825 to 1875," in University of Toronto Law Journal 48 (1998), pp 175-251.

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