Associate Professor Warren Swain’s book, The Law of Contract 1670–1870 (Cambridge University Press) was recently launched at the Supreme Court Library Queensland with opening remarks delivered by The Honourable Justice David J Jackson. His book challenges many of the fundamental assumptions of Professor Patrick Atiyah’s seminal, Rise and Fall of Freedom of Contract, which was published in 1979. Rather than advancing a purely chronological account, this examination of the development of contract law doctrine in England during that time explores key themes in order to better understand the drivers of legal change. These themes include the relationship between lawyers and merchants, the role of equity, the place of statute, and the part played by legal literature. Developments are considered in the context of the legal system of the time and through those who were involved in litigation as lawyers, judges, jurors or litigants. It concludes that the way in which contract law developed was complex. Legal change was often uneven and slow, and some of the apparent changes had deep roots in the past. Clashes between conservative and more reformist tendencies were not uncommon.
Launch of Assoc Prof Warren Swain's book
24 Mar 2015