Thursday, July 22, 2010

More on New Zealand's Lost Cases

[Earlier I posted on a news report of a project by some New Zealand legal historians to collect the "lost cases" of the country's Supreme Court. I have the following update from Damen Ward of the law faculty of the University of Victoria at Wellington.]

The “New Zealand’s Lost Cases” databases are an important academic resource not just for New Zealand historians, but for scholars of British colonization, comparative settler societies, and imperial legal history. The source database shows where court records can be found around New Zealand and the case database reproduces the cases themselves, either from judge’s notebooks or from newspaper reports. A third part of project will reproduce significant decisions of the Native Land Court. At present the database covers all Supreme Court cases from 1840-1860, and cases from the 1860s are being added regularly.

The case database is word-searchable. A recent conference at Victoria University of Wellington showed the range of research possibilities opened up by the database; the papers offered included discussions on colonial marriage, shore-whaling and commercial customs, dower, informal land titles, and judicial attitudes to the imperial prerogative in Crown colonies. The conference programme is here.

The NZ databases may allow interesting comparative studies to be made with the Australian jurisdictions covered by the Kercher databases. Hopefully, the databases will also encourage conversations between New Zealand legal historians and those with interests in other jurisdictions, including in Canada and the United States.