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Conversations with Sir John Hamilton Baker QC: Aspects of Resolving the Legal History of the Common Law

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 March 2018

Abstract

Professor Sir John Baker was born in Sheffield in April 1944 towards the end of the Second World War. His path into legal history was via the Edward VI Grammar School in Chelmsford, and University College London (UCL) in the early 1960s. It was his good fortune that lecturing arrangements still in place at UCL as a wartime legacy caused him to fall under the inspirational guidance of Professor Toby Milsom at LSE for his legal history tuition. By the time John Baker moved to Cambridge in 1971 he had been called to the Bar at the Inner Temple, and his interest in the development of the common law in the late mediaeval/early Tudor period was firmly grounded. The next forty years were spent at Cambridge, where he established an enviable reputation as an innovative and meticulous scholar, whose publications output has become legendary. He retired from the Downing Chair of the Laws of England in 2011, and was knighted for his services to legal history in 2003. This article by Lesley Dingle attempts to highlight some aspects of Professor Baker's illustrious career, and should be read in conjunction with his entry in the Cambridge Eminent Scholars Archive, both of which are based on interviews that she conducted with Sir John in the Law Faculty in February-March 2017.

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Occasional Series
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s) 2018. Published by British and Irish Association of Law Librarians 

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References

Footnotes

1 https://www.squire.law.cam.ac.uk/eminent-scholars-archive/professor-sir-jh-baker Direct quotations from Professor Baker's answers in the transcript are shown in ‘italics’, while question numbers shown as Qxxx. These can be located on the website.

2 2013, CUP, 512pp.

4 Roxwell Manor records in the Essex Record Office.

5 Hilda Elizabeth Poole Grieve, (1913–1993), archivist and historian, Essex Record Office (1939–66).

6 Stroud Francis Charles (Toby) Milsom, QC MA FBA (1923–2016). Professor of Law Cambridge (1976–90), Professor of Legal History LSE (1964–76).

7 Clive Parry (1917–1982), Professor of International Law, University of Cambridge (1969–1982).

8 Joseph Anthony Charles Thomas (1923–1981); Professor of Roman Law, UCL (1965–81).

9 Alfred William Brian Simpson (1932–2011), Fellow Lincoln College Oxford (1955–73), Professor of Law, Kent (1973–83), Charles F. and Edith J. Clyne Professor of Law University of Michigan (1987–2009).

10 Sir John Spelman (1495?–1544), judge of the King's Bench.

11 Which he did, and the essay he produced won him the 1975 Yorke Prize. This later became the introduction to his Selden Society Spelman's reports - Q72.

12 Sir Edward Coke (1552–1634), Attorney General (1594–1606) to Elizabeth I & James I, Chief Justice of Kings Bench (1613–16).

13 P. 8 Collected Papers on English Legal History Vol I, 2013.

14 P. 8 of his Introduction to Volume I Collected Papers on English Legal History, CUP.

15 Op cit.

16 Q79 (end of Lectureship), Q96 (end of Readership), Q112 (end of Professorship), Q120 (retirement from Downing Chair), respectively.

17 Janet Senderowizt Loengard, Professor of history emerita at Moravian College, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. See: Loengard, Janet S., 1983. An Elizabethan Lawsuit: John Brayne, his Carpenter, and the Building of the Red Lion Theatre. Shakespeare Quarterly, 34 (3), 298310 CrossRefGoogle Scholar. KB27/1229 m30, printed and translated at Loengard 1983, 306–310.

18 William Fleetwood, (1535? – 1594) lawyer and politician. Recorder of London (1571–91), a Queen's Serjeant in 1592.

19 He also went to Kings College, for Evidence, with Prof Gerald Nokes.

20 David. J. Ibbetson, Regius Professor of Civil Law, Cambridge.

21 In: Ibbetson, D. 2004, Publication Review: “A Natural History of the Common Law”, Law Quarterly Review, 120; 696–700.

22 Law and Fact in Legal Development (1967) 17 University of Toronto Law Journal 1–19.

24 Sir Norman Robert Foster, Baron Foster of Thames Bank, (1935-), architect.

25 Leonard Sedgwick Sealy, (b. 1930), Emeritus S J Berwin Professor of Corporate Law, Chairman 1988–90.

26 William Elliott Butler, (1939- ) John Edward Fowler Professor of Law, Pennsylvania State University (2005-), Professorial Research Associate, SOAS (2006-), Emeritus Professor of Comparative Law in the University of London (2005-). A specialist in Soviet Law, whom John Baker came to know while a colleague at UCL.

27 Robert C Palmer, Cullen Professor of History and Law University of Houston.

28 698 pp., Butterworths, 1986. New impression (corrected) 1999. 2nd enlarged edn as Baker & Milsom Sources of English Legal History by Sir Baker, John (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010 Google Scholar.

29 Former Prime Minister, 1979–90.

30 A quote from Q113–114 in the ESA interview with Michael Prichard in 2012 https://www.squire.law.cam.ac.uk/eminent-scholars-archive/mr-michael-j-prichard

31 It concerned the Lordship of Bromfield and Yale, in Denbighshire, North Wales and was related to limestone quarries associated with the old lead and coal mines of the Alyn valley (Q114 of Mr Prichard's interview).

32 John Latimer Barton, (1929–2008), Law Tutor and Reader in Roman Law, Merton College, Oxford. Inter alia, a specialist on Henry de Bracton (Ca.1210–1268).

33 Roundell Palmer, 1st Earl of Selborne (1812–95), British lawyer and politician. He served twice as Lord Chancellor.

34 See, e.g. pp. 7, 45, Chapter 2 “Learning exercises in the medieval Inns of Court and Chancery”, in 1986 The Legal Profession and the Common Law, Hambledon Press.

35 Frederic William Maitland (1850–1906), Downing Professor (1888–1906).

36 Andrew Amos (1791–1860). Downing Professor (1849–60).

37 Jonathan Philip Chadwick Sumption, Lord Sumption (b. 1948), Justice of the Supreme Court (2012).

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