A New History of Law in post-revolutionary England

Mike Macnair, Associate Professor of Law at University of Oxford, is working as a partner investigator on this project alongside chief investigators Professor Wilfrid Prest and Professor David Lemmings from the University of Adelaide. It is funded by the Australian Research Council from 2016 to 2020. 

This four year project seeks to recover and reassess the history of English law, broadly conceived, over the seven decades following the Glorious Revolution of 1688-89. During that period limited monarchy, parliamentary government and the rule of law became new constitutional norms for an emergent imperial British state – and, eventually, for Australia.

The aim of the research is to reinterpret this part of history in the broadest possible ways, and thereby to achieve its potential as a new social and cultural history of government, the individual and the state. This significant research involves charting the changing modes and traditions of governance as variously experienced at all levels of English society, rather than limiting our attention to the life and work of judges, legislators and members of the legal professions. The project therefore aims to integrate the history of law with the general history of the period, making it accessible and relevant to the interests of a much broader and more diverse range of scholars and other readers than is currently the case.

The project consists of the following principal points of focus:

  • changes in the legal order (institutions and structures) and their relation to social, cultural,
    economic, political and constitutional developments;
  • the justice system and legal process in action, as experienced by people of all backgrounds;
  • the legal profession and legal discourse in their social and cultural contexts;
  • development of law, legal doctrine and rules, by the courts, parliament and profession;
  • changing expectations of law, pressures for 'reform' and representations of justice in print media.

The results of this major conceptual advance, reinterpreting the history of English law and government in the broadest possible way, will appear as Volume IX in the Oxford History of the Laws of England, co-authored by David Lemmings and Wilfrid Prest (University of Adelaide) and Mike Macnair (University of Oxford).