I enjoy working off the beaten track. Deep dives into little-researched or little-known fields are my preferred method of coming up with unique and engaging ideas that challenge our perception of modernity as a unique historical period. My point of departure is invariably that ideas from the past continue to influence all facets of our society.
My poet of choice is Andrew Marvell, but I am branching out in the seventeenth century. My summer 2020 writing project examines Andrew Marvell’s onetime patron, the Lord General Thomas Fairfax, whose interest in heraldry seems to have rubbed off on Marvell’s great poem, ‘Upon Appleton House’. This project has led me to read Fairfax’s own poetic efforts alongside Ben Jonson’s and Mildmay Fane’s poems.
Another literary project that crosses into law is a more in-depth reading of Edward Coke’s decisions against literary commentary of his time regarding law and royal government. This idea, however, is as yet unpolished. Stay tuned!
Canadian legal history is a fascinating and under-explored aspect of our national life. Drawing on my seventeenth-century training, I explain modern Canadian legal issues with reference to a much longer view sometimes stretching back to medieval law. This depth of knowledge is helpful because practical solutions that depart from cultural norms cause a ripple effect that can upset existing institutional checks and balances.
My current research focuses on the historical importance of equity in public law. Public law is a new(ish) field of nineteenth-century extraction. It is used to govern the relationship between subject and state. Before public law took hold, the state’s interaction with subjects often played out in private law disputes brought in special courts or on special forms of pleading, which included equity. The modern relationship between public law and equity is little-explored because contemporary jurists put up far too rigid walls between types of law.
Somewhat predating this interest in equity, I am also interested in law’s reaction to religion. This thorny issue has been done to death; I focus on law’s self-referential quality. In short, law is a belief system that demands adherence in some way similar to a religion. (Indeed, Western law inherits Roman rules through Catholic canon law.) Manifestations of this interest vary in my publications.