Legal Biography in the Journal of Legal History

July 23, 2020

Academic legal scholarship, which has a biographical dimension, has now begun to gather pace. The recent issue of the Journal of Legal History follows this trend. It is devoted to the study of legal biography and figures in Victorian and Edwardian Britain. It breaks away from the standard hagiographic form of legal biography, by developing a scholarship that pushes for a stronger methodological agenda with an explicit analytical framework. The issue carries an introduction, which provides a critical and insightful overview of scholarship in the area and the field more broadly, four thought-provoking articles, and a select number of reviews of important books on the subject written by leading scholars. The four main contributions in this issue were first presented at a transnational workshop at the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History in Frankfurt in 2019 which was co-hosted with King’s College London.

Readers who find this issue of the Journal of Legal History of interest might wish to engage with these other Max Planck-based projects, which approach the broader theme from different angles. The genre of legal biography changes its shape and focus according to its temporal and jurisdictional context. This becomes even more obvious if it is extended to the transnational sphere. The emerging legal history of European Union law, for example, cannot limit itself to judicial and scholarly biographies but must pay attention to the lives of top civil servants in the European Commission.  This feature is explored by a forthcoming volume on Key Biographies in the Legal History of the European Union edited by Philip Bajon and Stefan Vogenauer. The legal history of empires has to take account of the entanglements and cross-fertilisations which result from the circulation of lawyers and officials throughout different colonies. A workshop on ‘Colonial Legal Biography’ organised by Victoria Barnes, Emily Whewell and Stefan Vogenauer will discuss the imperial aspects of legal biography. The workshop had to be postponed, due to COVID 19, and will take place in April 2021.

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