Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Book Notes: History of Law in Canada

Down last night to the Osgoode Society launch of A History of Law in Canada, Volume 1, Beginnings to 1866 by Philip Girard, Jim Phillips, and R. Blake Brown. It's 900 closely written pages and I don't claim to have read many of  'em yet, but I can offer a few notes:
  • What is the scope of their inquiry? Well, the cover image is of Akitsiraqvik, a place on Baffin Island where Inuit trials and public gatherings were held until the early 20th century. And their attention to indigenous law does not end at the cover.
  • What is the depth?  Well, I know a bit about a few corners of legal history (courts of appeal, law societies...) so naturally I checked those sections early on. In each case either they added something I didn't cover, or made broad inter-provincial comparisons and judgments that were beyond my remit.  
  • What's the detail?  Well, their 900 pages have only got them to the mid-19th century. Come back in 2021, 20th centuryists, they say.
Historians, you are going to be consulting and citing this book for quite a while, no matter what your specialty. And if you are an aspiring legal historian, there must be ten thousands matters raised here that are worth fleshing out in a thesis or article.

The other book launched last night is The Class Actions Controversy by lawyer/scholar Suzanne Chiodo, which actually sounded quite interesting too.  But then I'm biased.  Chatting with a couple of the inventors of class actions in Ontario (it's not that old), I was able to tell them I myself once cashed a handsome little cheque from a class actions victory: Heather Robertson v. Thomson Newspapers of sweet memory.  Wish we could do the same to the universities for all their copying. 
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