Legal History Research Initiative

Books displayed in a book caseEstablished in 2019, the central purpose of this group is to promote legal-historical investigation, methodology and knowledge creation among Western’s law faculty and graduate students. The group provides a forum for discussion and development of historical studies of law, legal ideas and institutions, enhancing interest and competency in legal-historical methodologies and research approaches.

The group fosters and supports grant applications involving legal historical subjects. It also provides a forum for visiting scholars of law and history.  


  • January 31, 2019: Professor Rande Kostal, "Developing legal historical methodology"
  • April 4, 2019: Professor Thomas Telfer, "The New Bankrupty 'Detective Agency': The Origins of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy in Great Depression Canada"
  • October 3, 2023: Professor Rian Bobbink, “History of Discharge from Debt in the Netherlands”
  • March 5, 2024: Allyson May, “The Russell Murder Scandal”
  • March 19, 2024: Phil Girard, “Histories of Legal Education in Canada”
  • April 4, 2024: Professor Erika Chamberlain, “Before the After: Tort Law in Canada to 1970” 


  • Prof. Thomas Telfer - the legal history of insolvency in Canada
  • Prof. Rande Kostal - the socio-legal history of Canadian private law
  • Prof. Erika Chamberlain - the socio-legal history of Canadian private law
  • Prof. Colin Campbell - the legal history of Canadian taxation law
  • Prof. Claire Houston - the history of Canadian family law
  • Prof. David Sandomierski - the history of Canadian legal education/thought
  • Prof. Ryan Liss - the history of domestic and international criminal law

Relevant Publications by Members

Colin Campbell

“J.L. Ilsley and the Transformation of the Canadian Tax System: 1939-1943” (2013) 61:3 Canadian Tax Journal 633-670.

“J.L. Ilsley and the transition to the Post-War Tax System: 1943-1946” (2015) 63:1 Canadian Tax Journal 1-52.

“The 1917 Income War Tax Act: Origins and Enactment” (with Robert Raizenne), presented to Symposium on the Centenary of the Income Tax Act, May, 2016, published in Income Tax at 100 Years (Toronto: Canadian Tax Foundation, 2017) 2:1-2:96.

“The Origins and Architecture of the 1942 Canada-U.S. Tax Treaty” (with Robert Raizenne) in Studies in the History of Tax Law, vol 9 (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2019) (forthcoming).

Erika Chamberlain

“Affirmative Duties of Care: A Distinctly Canadian Contribution to the Law of Torts” (2018) 84 Supreme Court Law Review (2d) 101-130.

“Lord Buckmaster: the Reluctant Villain in Donoghue v Stevenson” [2013] 3 Juridical Review 245-264.

“Lord Atkin’s Opinion in Donoghue v Stevenson: Perspectives from Biblical Hermeneutics” (2010) 4 Law and Humanities 91-114.

Claire Houston

“The Trouble with Feminist Advocacy Around Child Victims of Domestic Violence” (2018) 39 Women’s Rts. L. Rep. 85.

“What Ever Happened to the Child Maltreatment Revolution?” (2017) 19 Geo. J. Gender & L. 1.

“How Feminist Theory Became (Criminal) Law: Tracing the Path to Mandatory Criminal Interventions in Domestic Violence Cases” (2014) 21 Mich. J. Gender & L. 217 (reprinted in Nancy K.D. Lemon, Domestic Violence Law, 5th ed., 2018).

Rande Kostal

Laying Down the Law: The American Legal Revolutions in Occupied Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, (Harvard University Press, forthcoming, 2019).

A Jurisprudence of Power: Victorian Empire and the Rule of Law (Oxford: Clarendon, 2005).

Law and English Railway Capitalism, 1825-1875 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1994). (420 pp.)

“The Alchemy of Occupation: Karl Loewenstein and the Legal Reconstruction of Nazi Germany” (2011) 29:1 Law and History Review 1-52.

“A Jurisprudence of Power: Martial Law and the Ceylon Controversy of 1848-51” (2000) 28:1 Journal of Commonwealth and Imperial Studies 1-34.

Ryan Liss

“From Peace to Dignity: The Origins of International Human Rights”

  • Faculty Workshop, Western University, Faculty of Law (Oct. 18, 2023).
  • Junior International Law Scholars Association Summer Workshop (July 27, 2023).

Helen Brady & Ryan Liss, "The Evolution of Persecution as a Crime Against Humanity" in Morten Bergsmo et al, eds, Historical Origins of International Criminal Law, vol 3 (2015) 429.

David Sandomierski

“Tension and Reconciliation in Canadian Contract Law Casebooks” (2017) 54:4 Osgoode Hall Law Journal 1181.

Thomas Telfer

Thomas Telfer & Virginia Torrie, “A Historical Account of the Orderly Payment of Debts Act Reference: Limiting Provincial Efforts to Protect Insolvent Debtors” (2023) 46:2  Dalhousie Law Journal 707-739.
Thomas Telfer & Virginia Torrie, “Debt Postponement, Debtor Protection, and Creditor Interests: The Role of the Saskatchewan Moratorium Act Reference Case in Reinforcing the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Power” (2023) 86 Saskatchewan Law Review 41-82.
Virginia Torrie & Thomas Telfer “Bankruptcy and Insolvency as an Expanding Field:  An Historical Analysis of Reference Re Debt Adjustment Act, 1937 (Alta.)” (2022) 59:4 Alberta Law Review 807-832.

“Rediscovering the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Power: Political and Constitutional Challenges to the Bankruptcy Act, 1919-1929” (2017) 80:1 Saskatchewan Law Review 37-70.

Ruin and Redemption: The Struggle for a Canadian Bankruptcy Law, 1867-1919 (University of Toronto Press, The Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, 2014) (328 pp).

Ben-Ishai, S. Schwartz and T. Telfer, “A Retrospective on the Canadian Consumer Bankruptcy System: 40 Years after the Tassé Report” (2011) 50 Canadian Business Law Journal 236-258.

“Justice Ivan Rand's Commercial Law Legacy:  Contracts and Bankruptcy Policies” (2010) University of New Brunswick Law Journal & University of Manitoba Law Journal (joint issue) 243-269.

“Ideas, Interests and Institutions and the History of Canadian Bankruptcy Law 1867-1880” (2010) 60 University of Toronto Law Journal 603-621.

“The Evolution of Bankruptcy Exemption Law in Canada 1867-1919:  The Triumph of the Provincial Model” [2007] Annual Review of Insolvency Law 593-651.

“A Canadian ‘World without Bankruptcy Law’: the Failure of Bankruptcy Reform at the end of the Nineteenth Century” (2004) 8 Australian Journal of Legal History 83-108.

“The Canadian Bankruptcy Act of 1919:  Public Legislation or Private Interest?” (1994-95) 24 Canadian Business Law Journal 357-403.