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Alternative Visions of Legal Biography: an Abstract

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 March 2014


David Sugarman reflects briefly on developments regarding legal biography and considers the future role and value of biography within the legal community and especially in the context of socio-legal research.

Legal Biography
Copyright © The Author(s) 2014. Published by British and Irish Association of Law Librarians 

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1 Margaret Thatcher, Mao, Indira Gandhi, Churchill, Harold Wilson and the Queen are just some of those who are the subject of recent best-selling biographies.

2 Marjoribanks, E., Famous Trials of Marshall Hall (London: Penguin, 1989).Google Scholar

3 Lewis, G., Lord Hailsham: A Life (London: Pimlico, 1998)Google Scholar and Lord Atkin (Oxford: Hart, 1999).Google Scholar

4 Heuston, R. F. V., Lives of the Lord Chancellor, 1885–1940 (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1964)Google Scholar and Lives of the Lord Chancellors, 1940 – 1970 (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1987)Google Scholar; Stevens, Robert, Law and Politics: the House of Lords as a Judicial Body, 1800 – 1976 (London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979).Google Scholar

5 Auchmuty, R., “Whatever happened to Miss Bebb?: Bebb v The Law Society and women's legal history”, (2011) 31 Legal Studies 199230CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Beatson, J. and Zimmermann, R., (eds.), Jurists Uprooted: German-Speaking Émigré Lawyers in Twentieth Century Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Dukes, Ruth, “Constitutionalizing employment relations; Sinzheimer, Kahn-Freund, and the role of labour law” (2008) 35 Journal of Law and SocietyCrossRefGoogle Scholar 341- and Otto Kahn-Freund and Collective Laissez-Faire: An Edifice without a Keystone?” (2009) 72 Modern Law Review 220246CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Lacey, Nicola, A Life of HLA Hart, The Nightmare and the Noble Dream (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004)Google Scholar; Parry, R. Gwynedd, David Hughes Parry – A Jurist in Society, (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2010)Google Scholar; Duxbury, Neil, Frederick Pollock and the English Juristic Tradition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Prest, W. R., William Blackstone : law and letters in the eighteenth century (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2008).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

7 Eminent Scholars Archive (University of Cambridge)

8 Only a relatively small number of judges have been the subject of sustained, modern biographies: see Polden, Patrick, “Judging Judges. The Reputations of Nineteenth-Century Judges and their Sources”, in Musson, Anthony and Stebbings, Chantal (ed)., Making Legal History. Approaches and Methodologies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012) 5371.Google Scholar

9 Cf. R. Auchmuty, “Whatever happened to Miss Bebb?”, ibid and Early women law students at Cambridge and Oxford”, (2008) Journal of Legal History 6397Google Scholar; Polden, P., “Portia's progress: women at the bar in England, 1919–1939”, (2005) 12 International Journal of the Legal Profession, 293338CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Women have received more sustained attention in Canada and the United States.

10 Cf. Sugarman, David, “Beyond Ignorance and Complacency: Robert Stevens' Journey Through Lawyers and the Courts”, (2009) 16 International Journal of the Legal Profession 731CrossRefGoogle Scholar (which is a biography of a book about law); MacGregor, Neil, A History of the World in 100 Objects (London, Allen Lane, 2010).Google Scholar

11 See, for example, Slinn, J., A History of Freshfields (London 1984)Google Scholar, and idem, Linklaters and Paines: The First 150 Years (London, 1987)Google Scholar; Belcher, V., Boodle, Hatfield and Co. (London, 1985)Google Scholar; Dennett, L., Slaughter and May (London, 1989)Google Scholar; Cobb, W., A History of Grays of York (York, 1989)Google Scholar; Davis, P., Number 1 (London, 1984)Google Scholar; Scott, J., Legibus: King, Thorne and Stace (London, 1980)Google Scholar; Thirlwell, A., A Century of Practice: Isadore Goldman and Son (London, 1985)Google Scholar; Jackson, C., A Cambridge Bicentenary: The History of a Legal Practice, 1789–1989 (Bungay, 1990)Google Scholar. For a useful overview of this new field see Slinn, J., “The Histories and Records of Firms of Solicitors,” (1989) 22 Business Archives 58.Google Scholar

12 Cf. David Sugarman, “In His Own Voice: H.L.A. Hart in Conversation with David Sugarman”. Online blog published by Oxford University Press to accompany the publication of the online audio interview, “Hart Interviewed: H.L.A. Hart in Conversation with David Sugarman”. The interview is broken down into nine parts, available for streaming and download The interview is also accessible via the YouTube playlist. The text of most of the interview was originally published as Hart Interviewed: H.L.A. Hart in Conversation with David Sugarman” (2005) 32 Journal of Law and Society 267293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

13 Cf. Baker, J. H., “History of the Gowns worn at the English Bar.” (1975) 9 CostumeCrossRefGoogle Scholar 15-; Evans, R., The fabrication of virtue: English prison architecture 1750 –1840 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1982)Google Scholar; Dickinson, H. T., Caricatures and the Constitution. (Cambridge, Chadwyck-Healey, 1986)Google Scholar; Hunt, Alan, Governance of the Consuming Passions: A History of Sumptuary Regulation (London, Macmillan, 1995)Google Scholar; Douzinas, C. and Nead, L., eds., Law and the Image: The Authority of Art and the Aesthetics of Law (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1999)Google Scholar; Evans, D., “Theatre of Deferral: The Image of the Law and the Architecture of the Inns of Court.” (1999) 10 Law & Critique 125CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Mulcahy, Linda, Legal Architecture: Justice, Due Process and the Place of Law (Oxford, Routeldge, 2001)Google Scholar; Graham, Clare, Ordering Law: the Architectural and Social History of the English Law Court to 1914 (Aldershot, Ashgate Publishing, 2003)Google Scholar; Raffield, P., Images and Cultures of Law in Early Modern England: Justice and Political Power, 1558–1660 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2004)Google Scholar; Sugarman, David, “Images of Law. Legal Buildings, ‘Englishness’ and the Reproduction of Power”. In Schulze, R. (ed.) Rechtssymbolik und Wertevermittlung (Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 2004) 194225Google Scholar; Moran, Leslie, “Judging Pictures: A Case Study of Chief Justices, Supreme Court of New South Wales”, (2009) 5 International Journal of Law in Context 255314CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Goodrich, Peter, “Specters of Law; Why the History of the Legal Spectacle has Not Been Written”, (2011) 1 UC Irvine Law Review 773812Google Scholar; Musson, Anthony, “Visual Sources” in Musson, Anthony and Stebbings, Chantal (eds.), Making Legal History. Approaches and Methodologies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012) 264283.Google Scholar

14 Gwynedd Parry's otherwise valuable discussion of legal biography neglects these sources: Parry, R. Gwynedd, “Is legal biography really legal scholarship?” (2010) 30 Legal Studies 208229CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

15 Cf. Goodrich, Peter, “Eating Law: Commons, Common Land, Common Law.” (1991) 12 Journal of Legal History 246267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

16 For example, the following journals: Yale Journal of Law and the Humanities, founded in 1988; Law, Culture and the Humanities (Sage), founded in 2005; and Law and Humanities (Hart), founded in 2007. There also exists a Law and Humanities blog at See, further, Feenan, Dermot, “Foreword: Socio-legal studies and the humanities” (2009) 5 International Journal of Law in Context, 235242CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Williams, Melanie L. (2009) “Socio-legal studies and the humanities –law, interdisciplinarity and integrity” (2009) 5 International Journal of Law in Context 243261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

17 This is likely to be the case for UK based scholars given the Research Excellence Framework (REF), the new system for assessing the quality of research at UK educational institutions and the role of ‘impact’ in assessing research excellence: see . See, generally, Peter Scott, “Why research assessment is out of control”, The Guardian, 4 November 2013.

18 On the distinction between internal and external legal history, see Gordon, Robert W., “Introduction: J. Willard Hurst and the Common Law Tradition in American Legal Historiography.” (1975) 10 Law and Society Review 955.Google Scholar

19 On “top-down” and “bottom-up” histories see, for example, Eley, Geoff, A Crooked Line: From Cultural History to the History of Society (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Thompson, E.P., The Essential E. P. Thompson. (2001)Google Scholar; Stearns, Peter N., “Social History Present and Future”, (2003) 37 Journal of Social History 19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar