Origins of the Legal Treasure Project

Legal Treasure Tours are intended to enable those who research legal phenomena to explore some of the legal treasures–manuscripts, photographs, maps, audio-visual material, rare books, ephemera, works of art with a legal dimension–that are hidden or showcased in world leading collections; to see and touch unique materials, to place them in the historical and social contexts that render them ‘legal’ phenomena, and in so doing to consider their moral subtext.
I began organising them on an ad hoc basis in early 2012, first asking the experts (archivists, curators and librarians) to construct and lead them, and then having a go myself.
The first port of call was the SOAS Archives and Special Collections with Susannah Rayner. There we viewed, among other things, material from the Restatement of African Law Project at SOAS, papers documenting the mid 1800s property transactions of entrepreneur Henry Alexander Ince in the British Settlement in Shanghai, campaign posters from War on Want and the heated correspondence they generated between George Galloway and the Charities Commission and letters and images relating to the role of missionary John Smith in the 1823 Demerara Uprising in Jamaica.
The second port of call was the India Office Records at the British Library with Antonia Moon. There we viewed, among other things, the diaries of a C18th magistrate in Surat, the enchanting strategies employed by Thief Detector Sheikh Khyrulla of Madras, an opinion of the solicitors of the East India Company as to whether the estate of a wildly disorganised employee might be pursued for compensation, proceedings of the Sedition Committee, and certificates of freedom issued to those walking away from slavery in Aden.
For an account of these first two tours see SLSA Newsletter No. 67 p. 10
The third port of call, completed as part of a Folke Bernadotte Academy workshop on the theme Addicted to Law was the British Museum. To complete the tour see here.
From 2014 onwards I began to work with colleagues Lisa Dickson and Sophie Vigneron at Kent Law School to take LLM students to the British Museum.
In 2016 the Legal Treasure Tours expanded into a wider Legal Treasure Project encompassing Thinking Into|About Practice and a Legal Object Workshop.

For further information see the Legal Treasure Project website.

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