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How the history of law shapes the future

Does the history of law matter? Does it play a role in global issues like Brexit? An upcoming conference explores the law from a historical perspective.

Delving into the history of law and the ways in which it has shaped the course of history can be a treasure trove of insight and knowledge. But does it hold contemporary purpose, value and recognition?

The historical perspective of law will be explored at the 38th annual Australian and New Zealand Law and History Society conference (ANZLHS) from 11–14 December and will show case leading academics from around the globe and members of the judiciary.

Conference convenor Dr Jason Taliadoros, Senior Lecturer with DLS, says it’s an important topic because law is based on precedent (the history of previous cases), which means historians and lawyers share the same methodology for seeking authority in past sources.

‘Constructing a sound legal argument is no less difficult than writing an historical re-construction of past events explaining how and why they happened—in each case, you need to provide authoritative sources. I teach torts and personal injuries schemes, and both units are informed by my own research into the history of punitive or exemplary damages, which I argue have their origin in statutes of the thirteenth century and Roman law—at the very time when the common law was in its crucial formative period.’

Dr Jason Taliadoros

The ANZLHS is an interdisciplinary group of scholars who share an interest in the connections between law and history and includes historians, lawyers, academics and others interested in the area. 

Among the keynote speakers is Professor John Hudson from the University of St Andrews – one of the world’s pre-eminent scholars of the history of English medieval law and the origins of the common law – who will present on ‘Common Law, Civil Law, and English Identity’.

‘His most prominent works are The Formation of the English Common Law (now in its 2nd ed. in 2017) and The Oxford History of the Laws of England: Volume II. 871-1216 (2012). He is also the director of a substantial research centre, the Institute of Legal and Constitutional Research which has a number of both historical and contemporary projects on law and history,’ says Dr Taliadoros.

Other speakers include The Honourable Justice Chris Maxwell AC (President of the Victoria Court of Appeal), Martha S Jones (Society of Black Alumni Presidential Professor, Department of History, John Hopkins University), Dr Damen Ward (Senior Crown Counsel, Crown Law Office, New Zealand) and Shaunnagh Dorset (Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Technology, Sydney).

A panel discussion ‘Journalists, Whistle-blowers, Sedition and Rights’ will provide unique insight from Professor Peter Greste, who is an award-winning foreign correspondent and teaching academic at the University of  Queensland, and leading researcher Professor George Williams from the University of New South Wales.

Another panel, ‘From Encounter to Treaty’, will look at historic encounters between the State and Aboriginal communities in Victoria regarding sovereignty and how these may inform current Treaty practices.

This panel features leading academics Dr Joanna Cruickshank (Deakin), Associate Professors Julie Evans and Ann Genovese (Melbourne Law School), Dr Crystal McKinnon and Professor Mark McMillan (RMIT), and Associate Professor Shaun McVeigh (Melbourne Law School). 

Dr Taliadoros says that although the DLS is focused on teaching practical legal units to its students, both they and the legal profession (which includes many DLS alumni) will have the opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of the law from its history.

‘This conference, and the opportunity to engage with world-class academics like Prof. John Hudson, will enrich and deepen an understanding of the law and its place in our world for our academic staff, alumni, and students.’

More information on the ANZLHS conference can be found on Deakin Events.

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