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Legal History

Legal History Group

The Legal History Group is open to academics, researchers and PhD students from all parts of the University who have an interest in legal history, which is broadly defined as including the history of legal doctrine, crime, parliament, legal institutions, constitutional history, legal personalities and legal theory. The Group's primary aim is to foster collaboration between academics from law and other disciplines to promote innovative, disciplinary and inter-disciplinary research into legal history. The Group is particularly interested in promoting the study of the history of law in its social, political and economic context. 

2022_Law and ReligionLaw and Religion in Ireland, 1700 - 1970

The group's latest book is edited by Dr Niamh Howlin and Dr Kevin Costello, and includes chapters by several members of the research group, including Dr Tom Mohr, Dr Ivar McGrath and Dr Emma Lyons. It also includes a chapter by our recently deceased colleague Professor Nial Osborough.

This book builds on a roundtable workshop hosted in the School of Law in 2017. It focuses, from a legal perspective, on a series of events which make up some of the principal episodes in the legal history of religion in Ireland: the anti-Catholic penal laws of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century; the shift towards the removal of disabilities from Catholics and dissenters; the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland; and the place of religion, and the Catholic Church, under the Constitutions of 1922 and 1937.

Law and Family smallThe Law and the Irish Family 1800-1950

The first research project undertaken by the Legal History Group is a study of the interaction between the law and the family in Ireland in the period 1800-1950. The project began as a roundtable conference on the legal history of the family in Ireland, held in the Sutherland School of Law in March 2015. That conference resulted in a collection of twelve papers covering the stages of married life from engagement to divorce, and also touching on issues like the legal history of adoption, the legal definition of infanticide in nineteenth century Ireland, married women’s property, inter-family homicide trials in Ireland, the action for breach of promise of marriage, and the place of the family in the Irish Constitution. These essays are now due for publication by Palgrave Macmillan in 2017.

The collection will be made up of the following titles: ‘Deception, Dissenters, and Degraded Clergymen: Irish Bigamy Cases in the Nineteenth Century’ (Dr Maebh Harding, Warwick University); ‘The Action for Breach of Promise of Marriage in Nineteenth-Century Ireland’ (Michael Sinnott); ‘Adultery in the Courts: Damages for Criminal Conversation in Ireland’ (Dr Niamh Howlin, UCD); ‘Divorce Irish style’: Marriage Dissolution in Ireland, 1850-1950’ (Dr Diane Urquhart); ‘Marriage Breakdown in Ireland, c. 1660-1857’ (Professor Mary O’Dowd, Queen’s University Belfast); ‘Class Criminality and Marriage Breakdown’ (Dr Deirdre McGowan, DIT); ‘Behind Closed Doors: Society, Law and Familial Violence in Ireland, 1922-1990’ (Dr Lindsay Earner Byrne, UCD); ‘Murder in the Irish Family, 1930-1945’ (Dr Karen Brennan, University of Essex);’ Married Women’s property in Ireland 1800-1900’ (Dr Kevin Costello, UCD); ‘The Fate of the ‘Illegitimate’ Child: An Analysis of Irish Social Policy 1750-1952’ (Dr Simone McCaughren and Professor Fred Powell, UCC); ‘Embedding the Family in the Irish Constituton’ (Dr Thomas Mohr, UCD); 'Interrogating the Charge of Concealment of Birth in Nineteenth-Century Irish Courts’ (Dr Elaine Farrell, Queen’s University Belfast).

Law and Religion in Ireland 1530 to 1970

‌The group’s current project will examine the ways in which law has regulated religion, and the law of religious institutions, in Ireland from the Reformation to the 1970s. The following topics fall within the scope of the project: The Legal Foundations of the Protestant Reformation in Ireland; The Penal Laws and Catholic Landholding, 1700-1793; The Penal Laws in the Long Eighteenth Century; The Catholic Relief Acts 1781 to 1793; Tithe in Ireland; The Catholic Emancipation Act 1829; Religious Disabilities after Catholic Emancipation: 1829-1920; Disestablishment and the Church Act 1869; Church Influence on Law Making in the Irish Free State; Article 44.1 of the Constitution 1937-1973; The Ecclesiastical Courts in Ireland in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries; Constitutional Aspects of the Catholic Church in the Nineteenth Century.

Persons who are interested in contributing to this project or joining the group are encouraged to contact, Dr Kevin Costello ((opens in a new window)Kevin.Costello@ucd.ie).

UCD Sutherland School of Law

University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.