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Conversations with Michael J. Prichard: the Fun of Legal History and the Triumph of Research Over Administration

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 September 2020


Michael Prichard was born before the Second World War and lived through the bombing and destruction of much of London. When he entered university in 1945, King's College London had reoccupied its old quarters in the badly-damaged Somerset House, and along with LSE and UCL had pooled teaching resources to overcome staff shortages and accommodation damage. This inadvertently gave Michael a rich pool of mentors upon which to found his career, and who served him well in later years. He entered Queens’ College Cambridge in 1948 and experienced the unique post-war phenomena of the “returning warriors”, which continued, along with the “weekenders”, when he became a fellow at Gonville & Caius in 1950. Here he has remained, and is still a Fellow, seventy years later. His legacy is a fund of memories of a life-long journey through changing landscapes of legal research, teaching, and college and faculty administration. Lesley Dingle first interviewed Michael for the Eminent Scholars Archive in 2012, where his biography and general academic reminiscences are set forth. She now revisits aspects of these, following a conversation she had with David Yale for ESA in November 2019. David was Michael's career-long colleague, and his interview shone new light on their decades of joint endeavour unravelling the development of maritime law in the British Isles. Shortly after David's reminder of the magnitude of their project, an encounter with Professor David Ibbetson, and most recently a meeting with Michael, now in his 93rd year, spurred the author on to summarise particular aspects of Michael's varied research projects. In the process, she will emphasise the overall sense of adventure, and enjoyment - in short “fun”, with which he explored the history and jurisdictional intricacies of the Admiralty Court (jointly with David Yale), presented his enlightened insights into the evolution of aspects of tort law, and explained his research of the few esoteric conundrums in which a retiree was able to indulge.

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Copyright © The Author(s) 2020. Published by British and Irish Association of Law Librarians

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2 Glanville Llewelyn Williams (1911–97), Quain Professor of Jurisprudence, London University (1945–55); Reader in Law, Cambridge University (1957–65), Professor of English Law (1966–68), Rouse Ball Professor of English Law (1968–78).

3 Stroud Francis Charles (Toby) Milsom, (1923–2016), Professor of Law Cambridge (1976–90).

4 Sir John Hamilton Baker (b. 1944), Librarian, Squire Law Library (1971–73), Professor of English Legal History (1988–98), Downing Professor of the Laws of England (1998–2011).

5 David. E. C. Yale (b. 1928), Christ's College Reader in English Legal History, President of the Selden Society (1994–97). Recently interviewed for ESA:

6 Eg. the description of his first encounter with Toby Milsom's lecturing style - Q17.

7 Harold Potter (1896–1951), Professor of English Law King's College London (1938–51.

8 Herbert Felix Jolowicz (1890–1954), Professor of Roman Law, LSE (1931–48), Regius Professor of Civil Law, University of Oxford (1948–54).

9 Emlyn Capel Stewart Wade (1895–1978), Downing Professor of the Laws of England (1945–62).

10 Albert Kenneth Roland Kiralfy (1915–2001), Professor in Law, King's College London, specialist in Soviet & Russian law.

11 Regina v. Page [1954] 1 Q.B. 170 at 176.

12 He had taught at Corpus Christi College.

13 Prichard, M. J. The Army Act and Murder Abroad. (1954) 12 CLJ 232–241.

14 Op cit. p. 241.

15 The Rolls of Oléron: first formal statement of maritime law in NW Europe, promulgated by Eleanor of Aquitaine circa 1160. The anniversary celebrations included ceremonies on the Îlle d'Oléron (south of La Rochelle) and a facsimile of the laws taken from the “Black Book of the Admiralty”. See F. L. Wiswall Journal Maritime Law and Commerce (1994) 25 4 599.

16 Maritime law is a federal jurisdiction in the USA.

17 Reginald Godfrey Marsden (1845–1927). Registrar of Court of Admiralty. Select Pleas of the Court of Admiralty. Vol. I, 1390–1404, Selsden Society, Vol. 6, for 1892; Select Pleas of the Court of Admiralty, Vol. II 1527–1545, Selsden Society, Vol. 11 for 1897.

18 Kenneth McGuffie, Registrar of Court of Admiralty (1955–1972), author of British Shipping Laws, vol. 1 “Admiralty Practice. London: Stevens & Sons Ltd., 1964.

19 Jocelyn Edward Salis Simon (1911–2006), High Court (1962–71).

20 Sir Raymond Evershed (1899–1966), Master of the Rolls (1949–62).

21 M.J. Prichard and D.E.C. Yale (Editors). 1993. Hale and Fleetwood on Admiralty Jurisdiction. The Selden Society, 419pp, p. v, preface.

22 Sir Matthew Hale (1609–1676), barrister, judge and jurist. Common lawyer.

23 For example: 1969 Old Schools sit-in, 1970 Garden House Riot. See:

24 Prichard and Yale, 1993, p.v., preface.

25 As epitomised by Lacy's Case, 1580, King's Bench, Trin. 25 Eliz.

26 Lloyd's Maritime and Commercial Law Quarterly, (1994) 4 572–573 at p.573.

27 Sir William Fleetwood (1525–1594), Sergeant at Law to Elizabeth I, and Recorder of London. A common lawyer, but less dogmatic in his approach to civilian law than Hale. Certen Notes declaring Admirall Jurisdiction taken out of the Queenes Majesties Letters Patents granted unto the Lord Admirall of England for the tyme being as out of certen Statutes confirming the same, with a declaration when the Civill Lawe or the Common Lawe of this Realme is to be used in any Admirall Court for the triall of such matters as be there to be heard or determined.

28 A Disquisition touching the Jurisdiction of the Common Law and Courts of Admiralty in relation to Things done upon or beyond the Sea, and touching Maritime and Merchants Contracts.

29 Wiswall, F. L. Book review (1994) 25(4) Journal of Maritime Law and Commerce pp. 599–603.

30 Sir Edward Coke, (1552–1634), Attorney-General for Elizabeth I, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas 1613–16 (James I).

31 Henry Spelman (c.1564–1641), writer on law, his dictionary: Glossarium archaiologicum: continens latino-barbara, peregrina, obsoleta, & novatae significationis vocabula. Second ed. London: apud Aliciam Ward, 1664. 35 cm.

32 M. J. Prichard and D. E. C. Yale (Editors). 1993. Hale and Fleetwood on Admiralty Jurisdiction. The Selden Society, Vol 108, 420pp.

33 Prichard M. J. Crime at Sea: Admiralty Sessions and the Background to later colonial Jurisdiction, (1984) 8 Dalhousie Law Journal pp. 43 – 58. Yale, D. E. C. A historical note on the Jurisdiction of the Admiralty in Ireland (1968) 3 Irish Jurist 146- Yale, D. E. C. Salvage—Admiralty Jurisdiction—Inland Waters (1987) 46 CLJ pp. 14–16. Yale, D. E. C. Salvage—Admiralty Jurisdiction—Inland Waters (1988) 47 CLJ 2, pp.153–155.

34 In P. Waite, S. Oxner & T. Barnes Law in a Colonial Society: the Nova Scotia Experience, Toronto, Carswell, 1984 43–58.

35 Established by 28 Henry VIII c. 15 and made redundant when the Central Criminal Court was created. Criminal jurisdiction was administered by commissioners of oyer and terminer, known as Justices of the Admiralty sitting in the Admiralty Sessions.

36 Transferred to colonial criminal courts by the Admiralty Offences (Colonial) Act 1849.

37 Ibid, p. 45. This was at Wapping.

38 A maritime lawyer in Castine, Maine, USA. Colby College, B.A.; Cornell University, J.D.

39 Published later as The Development of Admiralty Jurisdiction and Practice since 1800, CUP, 1970 223 pp.

40 Clive Parry (1917–1982), Professor of International Law (1969–82).

41 1 Vent. 295, 2 Lev. 172, 3 Keb. 650.

42 See F. W. Maitland: The Forms of Action at Common Law, 1909 at: This text is part of the Internet Mediaeval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to mediaeval and Byzantine history. © Paul Halsall, October 1998, .

43 His PhD thesis “The Action on the Case” was started in 1936. See J. H. Baker, “Kiralfy's The Action on the Case” (1995) 16 Journal of Legal History 231.

44 Sir Percy Henry Winfield (1878–1953), Rouse Ball Professor in English Law (1928–43).

45 Sir William Searle Holdsworth, (1871–1944), Vinerian Professor of English Law, Oxford University (1922–1944).

46 (1833) 10 Bing 112; 131 ER 848.

47 A general problem that Michael had earlier addressed in his paper “Nonsuit: a preliminary obituary”, CLJ,(1960) 88–96.

48 Prichard, M. J. Trespass, Case and The Rule in Williams v. Holland [1833]. (1964) 22 CLJ 234–253.

49 Milsom was Professor of Legal History, London School of Economics (1964–76).

50 University of Sydney. “Intentional negligence: a contradiction in terms?” (2010) 32 Sydney Law Review, 29–62, at p. 38.

51 [1932] AC 562.

52 Published, Selden Society 1976, 1–43. Lecture delivered in Old Hall, Lincoln's Inn, July 4th 1973.

53 Scott v. Shepherd (1773) 2 W Bl 892; 96 ER 525.

54 Established by Lord Raymond C.J. in Reynolds v Clarke (1725) 2 Ld. Raym. 1399.

55 M. J. Prichard 1973. Scott V. Shepherd (1773) and the Emergence of the Tort of Negligence. Selden Society lecture delivered in the Old Hall of Lincoln's Inn, July 4th, 1973. Published 1976 by Selden Society in London, p.9.

56 Lunney, M. & Oliphant, K. 2010. Tort Law, Text and Materials, 4th Edit. OUP, p. 8–9.

57 Handford, P. Intentional negligence: a contradiction in terms? (2010) 32 Sydney Law Review, 29–62.

58 Estates of the Lordship of Bromfield and Yale in Denbighshire.

59 John Waddingham Brunyate, Counsel at 4 Stone Buildings, author of F.W. Maitland, Equity: A Course of Lectures, 2d ed. 1936, and The Legal Definition of Charity (1945) 61, Law Quarterly Review 268.

60 Prichard, Michael, 2010. Waterhouse and his Gate, Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, 35ppGoogle Scholar.

61 John Caius, (1510–1573), physician.

62 A status finally extinguished in the Law of Property Act 1922.

63 Gonville & Caius College: The Statutes of the Founders (Boydell Press, 2017).

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