Lawyers and Legal Culture in British North America: Beamish Murdoch of Halifax

by Philip Girard, Professor, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University. Published with University of Toronto Press, 2011.

Well known to Osgoode Society readers as the author of an award winning biography of Bora Laskin, Philip Girard’s  Lawyers and Legal Culture in British North America: Beamish Murdoch of Halifax is much more than a biography of Nova Scotia’s best known nineteenth century lawyer and legal author. It is also a first class account of an everyday lawyers’ practice in the first half of the nineteenth century, and has a great deal to say about the British North American legal profession and legal culture. Girard places Murdoch and the legal profession in one colony in the broader context of what we know about the international history of the legal profession at the time, and also draws interesting links between Murdoch’s legal practice and legal ideas and the politics of the period, especially arguments over responsible government.


Clio Award, Regional History 2012

Reviews of Lawyers and Legal Culture in British North America: Beamish Murdoch of Halifax

Philip Girard uses the story of a single lawyer, Bamish Murdoch, to illustrate the changes in legal culture in Halifax over the course of half a century…. Girard uses detailed records from Murdoch’s practice and his writings to focus on Murdoch as a legal professional, contributor to intellectual and cultural life, and economic actor…. Girard’s book illustrates the importance of the stories of ordinary individuals in understanding the wider impact and workings of the law. Lori Chambers, Acadiensis, Vol 41, 2012, pp. 249-250.
[A]n important and impressive addition to the burgeoning field of Canadian legal history, written by one of its most distinguished practitioners. The book examines the lengthy and multi-faceted career of the nineteenth-century Halifax lawyer, politician and writer Beamish Murdoch …. Girard’s expansive approach to legal history and his use of a legal culture framework …. shows very well that law generally and lawyers in particular had powerful social and cultural roles both inside and outside the courtroom. Bradley Miller, Histoire Sociale/Social History, Vol 45, 2012

Reviews have also appeared in the following publications:

  • Ralph Stewart, Canadian Journal of Law and Society, Vol 28, 2013, pp. 111-113
  • Reference and Research Book News, Vol 27, February 2012.