Crime at Sea, Admiralty Sessions, Background, Colonial Jurisdiction, terra incognita
The conference program describes the legal history of Nova Scotia as terra incognita. Whether this is so for the province's own inhabitants is not a question that someone from the other side of the Atlantic should presume to judge, since ignorance there is not limited to the legal history of Nova Scotia but extends to colonial legal history generally. We have, I fear, been intimidated by the task, and we have tended to leave each erstwhile colony to trace its own legal history. I comfort myself, therefore, with the thought that any transatlantic contribution is likely to be a modest one taking the form of a topic of English legal history in the hope of prompting a corresponding interest in the history of that topic in Nova Scotia. Since Nova Scotia is a maritime province, a maritime topic may not be amiss-some problems of jurisdiction in respect of crimes committed at sea that England experienced in the century or so before and after the founding of Halifax. The problems, such as they were, were experienced in Admiralty Sessions, for it was in Admiralty Sessions that crime at sea was tried for the three centuries between 1536 and 1834. Very little has ever been published about Admiralty Sessions. Holdsworth has barely a couple of pages upon them in the sixteen volumes of his History of English Law-yet the records have a unique character and are of interest to the social and economic historian as well as the lawyer.
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M. J. Prichard, “Crime at Sea: Admiralty Sessions and the Background to Later Colonial Jurisdiction” (1984) 8:3 DLJ 43.