The Bar and the Old Bailey, 1750-1850

Allyson N. May.

Published November 2003. Order online through The University of North Carolina Press. ISBN: 978-0-8078-2806-9.

Allyson May chronicles the history of the English criminal trial and the development of a criminal bar in London between 1750 and 1850. She charts the transformation of the legal process and the evolution of professional standards of conduct for the criminal bar through an examination of the working lives of the Old Bailey barristers of the period. In describing the rise of adversarialism, May uncovers the motivations and interests of prosecutors, defendants, the bench, and the state, as well as the often-maligned “Old Bailey hacks” themselves.

Traditionally, the English criminal trial consisted of a relatively unstructured altercation between the victim-prosecutor and the accused, who generally appeared without a lawyer. A criminal bar had emerged in London by the 1780s, and in 1836 the Prisoners’ Counsel Act recognized the defendant’s right to legal counsel in felony trials and lifted many restrictions on the activities of defense lawyers. May explores the role of barristers before and after the Prisoners’ Counsel Act. She also details the careers of individual members of the bar–describing their civil practice in local, customary courts as well as their criminal practice–and the promotion of Old Bailey counsel to the bench of that court. A comprehensive biographical appendix augments this discussion.

Endorsements

“Provides invaluable groundwork for future research into the development of legal ethics and professional discipline.”
– Law and History Review

“An important book. . . . [May’s] analysis of the barristers who practiced at the Old Bailey, London’s principal criminal court, puts human flesh on the story of ‘lawyerization’. . . . A substantial contribution to the scholarly literature on the history of the bar.”
– Albion

“Represents a significant addition to our understanding of the history of the Old Bailey and its advocates in a crucial formative period for English criminal justice.”
– Journal of Legal History

“Among the most thoroughly-researched explorations of the relationship between the upper branch of the legal profession and the reforms of the criminal trial to date. . . . Rooted in meticulous research into the diverse working lives of the individuals who made up the London bar, [it gives] readers a sense of the day to day practice at the Old Bailey. . . . A significant contribution.”
– Journal of Social History

“A well-researched and important addition to our growing understanding of the evolution of the criminal trial in England.”
– American Historical Review

“May’s thorough account of the formation of the Old Bailey bar is necessary reading for anyone interested in the development of the criminal trial or the legal profession in England.”
– American Journal of Legal History
Related Titles:

Working Knowledge: Employee Innovation and the Rise of Corporate Intellectual Property, 1800-1930 (Sep 20, 2009)
Catherine L. Fisk. Published 2009. Order online through The University of North Carolina Press. ISBN: 978-0-8078-3302-5. Skilled workers of the early nineteenth century enjoyed a degree of professional independence because workplace knowledge and technical skill were their “property,” or at least their attribute. In most sectors of today’s economy, however, it is a foundational and widely …
Law, Land, and Family: Aristocratic Inheritance in England, 1300 to 1800 (Feb 16, 1997)
Eileen Spring. Published February 1997. Order online through The University of North Carolina Press. ISBN: 978-0-8078-4642-1. Eileen Spring presents a fresh interpretation of the history of inheritance among the English gentry and aristocracy. In a work that recasts both the history of real property law and the history of the family, she finds that one of the principal and determinative …
Law and Identity in Mandate Palestine (Jun 7, 2006)
Assaf Likhovski. Published June 2006. Order online through The University of North Carolina Press. ISBN: 978-0-8078-3017-8. One of the major questions facing the world today is the role of law in shaping identity and in balancing tradition with modernity. In an arid corner of the Mediterranean region in the first decades of the twentieth century, Mandate Palestine was confronting these very …
Catalonia’s Advocates: Lawyers, Society, and Politics in Barcelona, 1759-1900 (Sep 20, 2009)
Stephen Jacobson. Published 2009. Order online through The University of North Carolina Press. ISBN: 978-0-8078-3297-4. Offering a window into the history of the modern legal profession in Western Europe, Stephen Jacobson presents a history of lawyers in the most industrialized city on the Mediterranean. Far from being mere curators of static law, Barcelona’s lawyers were at the center of …
Constituting Empire: New York and the Transformation of Constitutionalism in the Atlantic World, 1664-1830 (Sep 7, 2006)
Daniel J. Hulsebosch. Published September 2008. Order online through The University of North Carolina Press. ISBN: 978-0-8078-5920-9. According to the traditional understanding of American constitutional law, the Revolution produced a new conception of the constitution as a set of restrictions on the power of the state rather than a mere description of governmental roles. Daniel J. …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *