Law, Debt, and Merchant Power: The Civil Courts of 18th Century Halifax

Law, Debt, and Merchant Power: The Civil Courts of 18th Century Halifax

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By James Muir
Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History
University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division © 2016
World Rights
304 Pages
ISBN 9781487501037
Published Sep 2016
Online discount: 25%
 $70.00    $52.50
ebook (EPUB format)
ISBN 9781487512316
Published Oct 2016
Online discount: 24%
Full purchase $70.00

In the early history of Halifax (1749-1766), debt litigation was extremely common. People from all classes frequently used litigation and its use in private matters was higher than almost all places in the British Empire in the 18th century.

In Law, Debt, and Merchant Power, James Muir offers an extensive analysis of the civil cases of the time as well as the reasons behind their frequency. Muir’s lively and detailed account of the individuals involved in litigation reveals a paradoxical society where debtors were also debt-collectors. Law, Debt, and Merchant Power demonstrates how important the law was for people in their business affairs and how they shaped it for their own ends.

James Muir is an associate professor in the Department of History and Classics as well as the Faculty of Law at the University of Alberta.

Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: Halifax, a community of litigants

Chapter 3: Initiating Actions

Chapter 4: Avoiding Trial

Chapter 5: Going to Trial

Chapter 6: Ending the Action

Chapter 7: Appeals and Other Courts

Chapter 8: Conclusion

Appendix 1: Sources and Methods

Appendix 2: Interpreting Occupational and Status Data


"This book is admirably accurate about the ways the law actually worked in practice, and refreshingly careful to avoid anachronism and over-reach. Muir demonstrates an impressive knowledge of eighteenth-century judicial procedures, and he offers a persuasive analysis of colonial legal culture."

Jerry Bannister, Department of History, Dalhousie University

"Law, Debt, and Merchant Power is a path breaking analysis of how civil law was used in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Muir’s meticulous analysis of civil suits illustrates how important the law was and how bourgeois merchants shaped the administration of law to their needs."

Elizabeth Mancke, Department of History, University of New Brunswick

‘At the higher methodological level, the work both fascinates and provokes… Muir’s book is an interesting, original, and important work, part of the new wave of regional scholarship that integrates greater Nova Scotia into the history of the eighteenth-century British Atlantic.’

Barry Cahill, Acadiensis February 2017