Paul D. Halliday

Paul D. Halliday

Julian Bishko Professor of History & Professor of Law

Office Hours: By appointment (fall 2015)

Office: 454 Nau Hall

Phone: (434) 924-6385

Email: ph4p (at)

Fields & Specialties

Legal History; Britain and the Empire, 1500-1850


BA, Wesleyan University, 1983
MA, University of Chicago, 1988
PhD, University of Chicago, 1993


I first became interested in how law accommodates new ideas and social practices while writing Dismembering the Body Politic, a book concerned with the origins of partisan politics and law's response to it. In 2010, I published Habeas Corpus: From England to Empire. In it, I explore how habeas corpus arose from royal power, not against it. By making the judge sovereign, habeas corpus protected and transformed ideas about the many kinds of liberty claimed by those who used the writ  in England, Quebec, India, and beyond. Habeas corpus thus gave people across the empire new ways to shape the exercise of authority. Only legislative action, in Parliament or in colonial assemblies, would hinder the work of judges who used the writ to "hear the sighs of prisoners."


I am working on three projects now. The first concerns the material culture of law and the interaction of manuscript, print, and aural forms of knowledge in the eighteenth century. I am especially interested in how court clerks and their archival practices generated what counted as  authority in English and colonial courts. Related to this, the second project considers imperial constitution making from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries, and in particular, the role of the judicial office in making the constitutions of dominions from the Caribbean to Mauritius and beyond. I am also exploring the law concerning prisoners of war in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.


Principal Publications

"Authority in the Archives," Critical Analysis of Law, 1 (2014), 110-42.


"Laws' Histories: Pluralisms, Pluralities, Diversity," in Lauren Benton and Richard J. Ross, eds., Legal Pluralism and Empire, 1500-1850 (NYU Press, 2013), 261-77.


Habeas Corpus: From England to Empire (Harvard University Press/Belknap Press, 2010; paperback, 2012)

•  Inner Temple Book Prize, 2011; New Statesman, "favourite read," 2010


Co-author, with G. Edward White, “The Suspension Clause: English Text, Imperial Contexts, and American Implications,” 94 Virginia Law Review (May, 2008), 575-714

• Sutherland Prize of the American Society for Legal History, 2009


Dismembering the Body Politic: Partisan Politics in England’s Towns, 1650-1730 (Cambridge University Press, 1998; paperback, 2003)


Graduate Advising

Though my research concerns law and its cultural contexts in England and the empire, my graduate students have conducted research on everything from religious history in the sixteenth century to transatlantic history in the eighteenth. Many studying early modern England have developed broad-ranging research with the help of colleagues in European, Latin American, African, and early American history, and in other departments, too, from Religious Studies  to English and Spanish.



HIEU 2111: History of England, to 1688

HIEU 3291: Seventeenth-Century Britain: Politics in Thought and Action

HIEU 3471: History of English Law, to 1776

HIST 5559: Global Legal History

HIEU 7261: Graduate Colloquium on Early Modern English History

HIST 8240: Law: Transnational and Imperial Contexts, to 1850

Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia
Nau Hall - South Lawn
Charlottesville, VA 22904

tel: (434) 924-7147; fax: (434) 924-7891
office: M-F 8 am to 4:30 pm
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