Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Law Legal History

A History of Law in Canada, Volume One

Beginnings to 1866

by (author) Philip Girard, Jim Phillips & R. Blake Brown

University of Toronto Press
Initial publish date
May 2019
Legal History, Canadian, Pre-Confederation (to 1867), Native American
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Nov 2018
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Dec 2018
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    May 2019
    List Price

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it


A History of Law in Canada is an important three-volume project. Volume One begins at a time just prior to European contact and continues to the 1860s, Volume Two covers the half century after Confederation, and Volume Three covers the period from the beginning of the First World War to 1982, with a postscript taking the account to approximately 2000.


The history of law includes substantive law, legal institutions, legal actors, and legal culture. The authors assume that since 1500 there have been three legal systems in Canada – the Indigenous, the French, and the English. At all times, these systems have co-existed and interacted, with the relative power and influence of each being more or less dominant in different periods.


The history of law cannot be treated in isolation, and this book examines law as a dynamic process, shaped by and affecting other histories over the long term. The law guided and was guided by economic developments, was influenced and moulded by the nature and trajectory of political ideas and institutions, and variously exacerbated or mediated intercultural exchange and conflict. These themes are apparent in this examination, and through most areas of law including land settlement and tenure, and family, commercial, constitutional, and criminal law.

About the authors

Philip Girard is University Research Professor and Professor of Law, History and Canadian Studies at Dalhousie University, where he is based at the Schulich School of Law. He has published widely on Canadian and comparative legal history. His biography Bora Laskin: Bringing Law to Life (Osgoode Society, 2005) received the Chalmers Award for the best book published in Ontario history in that year, while his Lawyers and Legal Culture in British North America: Beamish Murdoch of Halifax (Osgoode Society, 2011) received the Clio Atlantic award from the Canadian Historical Association in 2012. He is the associate editor of the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History.


Philip Girard's profile page

Jim Phillips is Professor of Law, History and Criminology at the University of Toronto, and editor-in-chief of the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History. He has co-edited four volumes of the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History’s Essays in the History of Canadian Law and, with Philip Girard, a volume on the history of Canada’s oldest surviving superior common law court, The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia 1754-2004: From Imperial Bastion to Provincial Oracle (Osgoode Society, 2004). He has published over fifty articles and book chapters on British imperial history and 18th-century India, on property and charities law, US legal history, and, principally, Canadian legal history. He is also the author, with Rosemary Gartner, of Murdering Holiness: The Trials of Franz Creffield and George Mitchell (University of British Columbia Press, 2003).


Jim Phillips' profile page

R. Blake Brown is a professor in the Department of History and Atlantic Canada Studies at Saint Mary’s University.

R. Blake Brown's profile page


  • Short-listed, Walter Owen Book Prize awarded by The Canadian Foundation for Legal Research
  • Short-listed, 2019 CLSA Book Prize awarded by the Canadian Law and Society Association

Editorial Reviews

"[This] is the best synthesis of a field I have ever seen and should be required reading for all historians of Canada. It is astonishingly all-encompassing, examining not just the history of the evolution of the Canadian constitution, […] derived from France and Britain, but also the history of the Indigenous system of law."

<em>British Journal of Canadian Studies</em>

Other titles by Philip Girard

Other titles by Jim Phillips

Other titles by R. Blake Brown