Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Aussie Jurist Asks, "Where Did the Legal History Go?"

The latest issue of the Australian Law Journal 83 (January 2009) includes the lament of Justice Michael Kirby AC CMG, "Is Legal History Now Ancient History?" I don't believe the journal is on-line, but here's an abstract:
Until 40 years ago legal history was a core subject of all Australian law schools and treated as essential for the preparation of a professional lawyer. Suddenly this changed. In only two or three of Australia's 31 law schools is the separate study of legal history now compulsory. A similar change has happened in the United States but not in Canada. Criticism of the way the discipline was formerly taught and its neglect of the Australian dimension are acknowledged. The author asks whether the change matters and recounts the arguments suggesting that it does not. He then explains why it does matter and especially in understanding of the fundamental features of constitutional and public law. He refers to recent cases and concludes that a revamped, new and shorter course of legal history should be restored in Australia. In an age of infotainment and collective ignorance about the past, Australian lawyers need to remember the aphorism that those who do not learn their history are bound to repeat its mistakes.
Hat tip.