A History of Law in Canada is the first of two volumes. Volume One begins at a time just prior to European contact and continues to the 1860s, while Volume Two will start with Confederation and end at 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.
‘As is appropriate in a pioneering work of descriptive history, the authors deliberately avoid seeking broad theoretical explanations of trends in legal development in Canadian history and instead relate the evolution of law and the growth of legal institutions to the broader political, economic, social, cultural, and moral contexts that inspired debate around issues of legal change.’- John McLaren, Faculty of Law, University of Victoria
‘A History of Law in Canada is an ambitious study that skilfully brings together the legal history of regions, of peoples, and, indeed, of both western European and Indigenous civilizations. The legal histories of Acadia, Newfoundland, and other regions are treated with "sérieux" and are integrated with the legal history of central Canada in a fascinating, original fashion.’- Brian Young, James McGill Professor of Canadian History, emeritus, McGill University
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