Paul D. Halliday

Julian Bishko Professor of History
Professor of Law

(434) 924-6385

Nau 454
Office Hours: On Leave 2016-2017

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


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


"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


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)

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 explore 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 in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. 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 imperial constitution making from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries and the role of judges from the Caribbean to Mauritius and beyond. I am also exploring early modern discourses of law and human rights, legal practices involving prisoners of war, and the use of actions for false imprisonment.


Courses Taught

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


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.


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


(434) 924-7147
(434) 924-7891
M-F 8am to 4:30pm
Department Contacts