Paul D. Halliday

Julian Bishko Professor of History
Professor of Law

(434) 924-6385
Nau 454
Office Hours: Spring 2022: Mon. 3:15-4:30 (office); Tues. 1:00-2:00 (online); and by appointment

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," 2010

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

Essays and Articles

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

HIEU 3471: History of English Law, to 1776

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

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

Graduate Advising

Previous graduate students have conducted research with me on everything from religious history in the sixteenth century to global history in the eighteenth and nineteenth. These days, I can be most helpful to students focused on legal history, including those who may seek employment in law or the legal academy. In part owing to the dearth of academic posts in early modern British history, I encourage all my students to develop broad-ranging ideas and methods with the help of colleagues in Latin American, Middle Eastern, Indian Ocean, European, and early American history; in UVA's Law School; and in other departments such as Art and Architectural History. Students should keep an open mind about where their interests and professional life might take them, within and beyond the academy, as they progress through the PhD and beyond. Potential applicants should contact me. 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.