The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, 1754 – 2004: From Imperial Bastion to Provincial Oracle

edited by Philip Girard, Professor, Dalhousie Law School, Jim Phillips, Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, and Barry Cahill, independent scholar.  Published with the University of Toronto Press, 2004.

This volume was prepared to coincide with the 250th anniversary of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, Canada’s oldest surviving common law court. The thirteen essays include an account of the first meeting of the court in Michaelmas Term (October) 1754 and surveys of the court’s jurisprudence. There are also chapters on the courts of Westminister Hall, on which the Supreme Court was modelled in the eighteenth century, and on the courthouses occupied over the two and a half centuries of the court’s existence. Anchoring the volume are two longer chapters, one on the pre-confederation and one on the modern period, which together provide a comprehensive narrative history of the court – a unique contribution to our knowledge of the history of Canadian provincial superior courts.

Reviews of The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, 1754 – 2004: From Imperial Bastion to Provincial Oracle

A collection of scholarly essays that offers the first comprehensive history of the oldest superior court in Canada... The result is a warts-and-all approach that provides valuable insights into an institution that affects the lives of every Nova Scotian.  Dean Jobb, The Sunday Herald (Halifax, NS), 24 October 2004, p. S13.
An admirable contribution to Canadian legal historical literature, This collection illustrates how focused treatment of a court ... can generate an historiography of considerable importance.  David Bell, Canadian Historical Review, Vol 87, 2006, p. 150.
This book is a remarkable tribute to the 250th anniversary of the founding of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia. It is a collection of essays that succeeds well at that most challenging of tasks, drawing diverse scholarship together thematically into a digestible whole… The least satisfactory aspect of reviewing a book like this is being entirely unable to do justice to the impressive depth of the research, to the details unearthed by these scholars on the challenges to the court's everyday functioning, to its crises, to the complex interplay of personal, educational, social and jurisprudential influences on the judges, to the jurisprudence they developed in the multiplicity of cases they dealt with over 250 years…. This book will reward … those who are interested in more broad, thematic questions about courts and their development in the colonial and post-colonial context, particularly in the place that has become Canada, with all its diverse influences and homegrown propensities.  Lyndsay Campbell, Law and History Review, Vol 25, 2007, p. 448.

Reviews have also appeared in the following publications:

  • Allan Dunlop, Journal of Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society, Vol 8, 2005, p. 148.
  • Jean-Philippe Garneau, H-Net Reviews in the Humanities & Social Sciences, June 2005.
  • Gilles Renaud, Canadian Criminal Law Review, Vol 10, 2006, p. 205.
  • Reference and Research Book News, Vol 20, 2005.