Paul D. Halliday

Julian Bishko Professor of History
Professor of Law

(434) 924-6385
Nau 454
Office Hours: ON LEAVE

Field & Specialties

Legal History
British, Imperial, and Global History, 1500-1850


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



Co-editor, with Eleanor Hubbard and Scott Sowerby, Revolutionising Politics: Culture and Conflict in England, 1620-1660 (Manchester University Press, 2021)

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

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

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

Essays and Articles

“Persistence of Practice in Law’s Parwana and Palm Leaf Empire,” Law and History Review, 41 (2023), 605–617

English Laws, Global Histories; or, What Makes a Court Supreme?" Journal of British Studies, 62 (2023), 1-20 [NACBS presidential address]

"England's Human Rights Revolution, 1646-1652," in Revolutionising Politics: Culture and Conflict in England, 1620-1660 

"Brase's Case: Making Slave Law as Customary Law in Virginia's General Court, 1619-1625," in Paul Musselwhite, Peter Mancall, and James Horn, eds., Virginia 1619: Slavery and Freedom in the Making of English America (UNC, 2019), 236-55

"Legal History: Taking the Long View," in Markus D. Dubber and Christopher Tomlins, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Legal History (2018), 323-41

"Making the Charter Great: Claiming Rights in Law’s Visual and Emotional Vernacular," Emotions: History, Culture, Society 2 (2018), 11-33

“Birthrights and the Due Course of Law,” in Lorna Hutson, ed., The Oxford Handbook of English Law and Literature, 1500-1700 (2017), 587-603

“Habeas Corpus,” in Mark Tushnet, Mark A. Graber, and Sanford Levinson, eds., The Oxford Handbook of the U.S. Constitution (2015), 673-94

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

“Blackstone’s King,” in Wilfrid Prest, ed., Re-Interpreting Blackstone’s Commentaries: A Seminal Text in National and International Context (Hart, 2014), 169-87

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

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

Current Research

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 Habeas Corpus: From England to Empire, I explored how the writ of 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 pursuing a number of leads these days. My main interest is to develop a history of the senses and law's material forms from the sixteenth century to the twentieth. For instance, I am curious about how court clerks and their archival practices generated judicial authority and about how the design of English and imperial courthouses shaped the law made inside them. More generally, I am interested in the global history of English law from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries, and in particular, the role of judges in constituting the empire, from the Caribbean to Cape Town and Colombo. At the moment, I am studying the Supreme Court of Ceylon in the early nineteenth century, the adoption there of jury trials in criminal cases, and repeated contests between justices and the island's British governor, especially during security crises.

Courses Taught

HIEU 2111: England, Britain, Empire, 1500-1800

HIEU 3471: History of English Law, to 1776

HIST 1501: Law's Empire: Crime and Punishment Across the British Empire

HIST 2213: The Rule of Law: A Global History

HIST 4501: English Law and Empire, 1600-1860

HIST 5130: Global Legal History

HIEU 7261: Graduate Colloquium on Early Modern English History

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

9000-Level Graduate Tutorials: English, British, and Imperial History, 1500-1800; English Legal History; Global Legal History

Graduate Advising

These days, I work only with graduate students who have a primary interest in legal history, especially in Britain and around its empire, ca. 1500-1900, rather than with those whose main interests are in social, political, or religious history; students less centrally interested in legal history would be better advised by someone elsewhere whose main interests are in these subfields. Students here include those who may seek careers in law or the legal academy as well as in history departments, and those who may work outside the academy, for instance in public history, museum curation, or library special collections departments. We have a marvelous group of legal historians linking the History Department and our Law School. I encourage all my graduate students to develop broad-ranging ideas and methods with the help of colleagues who study law on every continent, from the ancient world to the present. These professors, along with students in both schools, comprise the community we call GLH@UVA. This Global Legal History group meets regularly to discuss work in progress by members and guests, to meet authors of new books, to work on professional development, and to enjoy each other's company. This community life is integral to the learning we do together. Students should keep an open mind about where their interests and professional lives might take them, within and beyond the academy, as they progress through the PhD and beyond. Potential applicants wanting to study legal history in Britain, its empire, or around the globe should contact me before applying. Nothing is more important to navigating graduate school than working with an advisor well suited by temperament and interests to help you develop your own intellectual agenda.