Australian concern with legal history began in earnest in the 1920s. At first scholars focused almost exclusively upon English legal history, understandably so, for English common law was in force in the country and Australian courts followed the decisions of the House of Lords in preference to their own precedents.With few exceptions, early enthusiasts who focused on purely Australian developments failed to find book publishers. Worse still, law faculties occasionally certified that their efforts had not contributed meaningfully to the science of law.
In the 1960s Australian scholars began to see this concentration on English legal history as a regrettable neglect of the Australian story. The ensuing burst of creative activity was marked by attention being focused almost solely upon Australian developments. Although the importance of Australia’s English legal heritage has since been recognised as inseparable from the local story, interest in local legal history has not waned and has, in fact, been greatly strengthened by the growing involvement of the judiciary and the legal profession, particularly in New South Wales and Queensland.This movement is likely to grow and spread and will, it is hoped, cause Australian law to become an important part of the national ethos.
Since the 1990s, historically oriented comparative research and teaching concerning links with Commonwealth countries and with the wider world have gained in importance, and the Law and History movement has promoted interdisciplinary studies. Law schools have played an important role in all these developments, but their involvement should be greatly strengthened.