Featured post

Updating Website

Most recent additions to the website  are:

  • A paper by The Honourable John Bryson QC on the Almorah Affair. Briefly describing the affair, John wrote:The Almorah was seized in Sydney Cove in February 1825 by a Naval officer hunting a reward for enforcing the Tea Monopoly and urged on by Sydney merchants who did not like Government imports. He sent the ship to Calcutta and the litigation lasted five years. The tea was owned by the Colonial Government and was outside the Monopoly. There were no gains and great losses in time, money and reputation.

The full paper is available on the following link:  1 Lecture The Almorah Affair Tea Shipping and the Colony


  • Recent Publications This new page has been added to the website to hold any reviews and/or details of publications related to Australian Legal History. Anyone with with material they would like to submit is invited to contact Tony Cunneen at acunneen@bigpond.net.au . David Ash has written a review of Michael Pelly’s book,  Murray Gleeson: The Smiler, (2014, Federation Press) on former Chief Justice of the High Court, Murray Gleeson. The review is also available by scrolling down this page.
  • Legal Textbooks in the Colony of New South Wales This project by Larissa Reid is an attempt to identify the legal textbooks that were available in the colony of New South Wales. This has been done by examining the textbooks which were cited in reported judgments from the period, a kind of ‘reverse engineering’. These reported judgments provide a representative sample of cases. The extensive papers on this topic are available in the Research Papers section on the  Resources page of this website
  • Results for the 2013 Essay Competition as well as questions and guidelines for the 2014 Competition – available by scrolling down this page
  •  A list of topics for the 2014 Legal History Discussion Group – available by scrolling down this page
  • An extensive paper and associated resources covering the Rules of Court at the time of Chief Justice Forbes available in the Resources section of this website.Click on Resouces to go directly to the section and scroll down for the paper.
  • A Link to the recent Francis Forbes Oration delivered by David Ash LLB, LLM, BA, for the Francis Forbes Society for Australian Legal History, Thursday 24 October, 2013,. Details and text of the speech are available at the site, Evening With Sir Francis, which opened the 2013 River Arts Festival in the Town of Forbes, New South Wales.
  • The program of the topics for the series of 2013 Legal History Seminars sponsored by the Society, available at http://www.forbessociety.org.au/?page_id=706
  • A link  to the New South Wales Capital Punishment Database – please scroll down this page for the details and link.

New Book: Murray Gleeson – The Smiler by Michael Pelly

Society member, Michael Pelly, has released a book on the life of former Chief Justice of the High Court, Murray Gleeson. The book was launched in Sydney on 27 May 2014 and is available through Federation press. Further details on the book can be obtained by accessing the relevant section on the Federation Press Website. Go to


David Ash has written a Review of the book. Please click on the link to read what David has written: Murray Gleeson – The Smiler

2014 Meeting of the Legal History Discussion Group


From time to time the Society convenes for its members and friends a “Legal History Discussion Group” meeting in the premises of the NSW Bar Association.  These meetings (held in the evening, commencing at 5.30pm and concluding no later than 7.00pm) provide a forum in which people interested in legal history can learn of recent developments, present papers and exchange ideas.

The revised program for 2014 is in the following document:  Program Forbes 2014 revised 14.08.14

The Australian Capital Punishment Database

This database contains information on all 3,171 capital convictions handed down in New South Wales from 1788-1954. Nearly one third of those convictions resulted in executions.

The database contains searchable particulars on prisoner, victim, conviction, and execution. These categories can be used in tandem, allowing the researcher to narrow down specific criminal cases, or track patterns over time. A general search function finds hits in the entire database.

We hope that it will herald future projects in law, history, criminology, socio-legal studies, and genealogy.

The Capital Convictions database was funded by the Francis Forbes Society for Australian Legal History. The database brings together a wealth of material collected through many years of historical research. The database is the compilation of the research of Dr Ken Macnab (University of Sydney), Sydney solicitor and barrister Tim Castle, and Dr Amanda Kaladelfos (Arts NSW Archival Research Fellow and Research Fellow at ARC Centre of Excellence in Policing and Security, Griffith University). This project greatly benefited from the research assistance of students and graduates of the University of Newcastle and University of Sydney: Justin Gill, Bianca D’Angelo, Emma Warren, Sarah Dunstan, Courtney O’Regan, and Joe Campbell.

Clink on the link: http://research.forbessociety.org.au/ to access to the database


2014 Lectures

In 2014 the Society proposes to conduct a number of major public lectures including the 12th annual Forbes Lecture and the third annual JH Plunkett Lecture. The Society invites all members and friends to bring to attention potential lecturers and lecture topics which will be advertised in the future.

The 2014 Australian Legal History Essay Competition


Entrants in the 2014 Australian Legal History Essay Competition are invited to address any question of their own choice on “Australian legal history” or to address one of four questions proposed by the Society.

Read the following link for the set questions, conditions of entry and guidelines for the 2014 Essay Com

Essays submitted by email should be sent to secretary@forbessociety.org.au  Essays submitted by post should be addressed to:

The Secretary, The Francis Society for Australian Legal History, C/- NSW Bar Association, Lower Ground Floor, Selborne Chambers, 174 Phillip Street, Sydney, NSW, 2000.    Essays submitted by hand should be delivered to that address.

Link to 2014 Competition: 2014 Essay Questions, Conditions and Guidelines