Studies in Irish legal history

W.N. Osborough

Hardback €58.50
Catalogue Price: €65.00
ISBN: 1-85182-447-2
October 1999. 352pp.

This collection of published essays covers diverse aspects of law in Ireland across many centuries. Each of the legal traditions, which at one stage or another have helped to shape Irish law, are thus represented: from the brehon law to canon law and from Roman law to the common law. Met with on the way are personages as different as Giolla na Naomh mac Duinnshleibhe Mhic Aodhagáin (d. 1309) and Sir Thomas Molony, the last lord chief justice of Ireland.

Most of the essays actually investigate topics that fall foursquare within Ireland's common law heritage as only befits Ireland's eventual but now long-confirmed membership of the family of the common law. These topics include the histories of law reporting and of parliamentary legislation as well as that of the organization of the lower branch of the profession – the attorneys and solicitors. Changes to the Irish legal system between 1796 and 1926 are recounted in two separate surveys. Modern themes dealt with include the penal laws directed against Catholics in the 18th century and property losses suffered in the course of the Anglo-Irish war this century, as well as the challenge that these episodes presented to the Irish judicial bench of the respective periods.

Introducing the collection is an essay which does not underestimate the difficulties that face the would-be researcher into Ireland's legal past, but which ends on a note of optimism for the future of a discipline, so long very much neglected by lawyers and historians alike.

W.N. Osborough is professor meritus of Jurisprudence and legal history at University College, Dublin, having previously taught at both Queen's University, Belfast, and Trinity College, Dublin. A former editor of the Irish Jurist, Professor Osborough now serves as literary editor to the Irish Legal History Society.