Kimberley-Joy Knight
The University of Sydney

Merridee L. Bailey
The University of Adelaide


History of Law and Emotions

This cluster focuses on the relationship between law and emotions from the Ancient World to the present day.


History of Law and Emotions .jpg

Image: Gilbert, and Sullivan. Trial by Jury - Chaos in the Courtroom. Digital image. 1 May 1875.

Today many assume that Western legal practice has historically rested on the view that good law requires dispassion: emotion should have no role in the creation, interpretation, reception, or practice of the law. However, in the last two decades there has been an ever-increasing volume of academic work by legal and social historians, philosophers, social scientists and legal practitioners that paints a very different picture, both of the historical situation and of modern law and courtrooms. Our aim is to bring together scholars in a variety of disciplines, as well as legal practitioners, to reconsider the role of emotions in law and legal practice.

While work on law and the emotions has mainly focused on crime and the courtroom, the cluster looks at the whole range of legal activities and legal interactions with society. At the same time, we examine how study of legal history can inform and develop the wider study of the history of the emotions. Particular areas of focus include: the presentation of law and legal decision making as distanced from emotion; contrasts between theory and practice, and methods of condemning emotional practice; forensic rhetoric and emotion; the use of law to restrain supposedly objectionable emotion, as a form of social and cultural control. The cluster is characterised by the lengthy historical period it covers; its engagement with western and non-western legal traditions; and its interaction between the historical and the contemporary, the scholar and the practitioner.

This cluster is a collaboration between the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions, Europe 1100‒1800 (CHE) and the Institute of Legal and Constitutional Research, St Andrews, Scotland.


Merridee Bailey (The University of Adelaide, Centre for the History of Emotions; Associate Member, Faculty of History, The University of Oxford)
Medieval and early modern English history
Court of Chancery; history of emotions

Professor John Hudson (Institute of Legal and Constitutional Research, The University of St Andrews)
Medieval History
Legal history of England c.1050‒1250, approaches to legal historiography including the study of rhetoric and emotions

Kimberley-Joy Knight (The University of Sydney, Centre for the History of Emotions)
Medieval History
Demeanour evidence, canonisation and canonisation procedure, emotions and rhetoric

Collaborating Members

Annalise Acorn (University of Alberta)
Steven Anderson (The University of Adelaide)
Greg Dale (Monash Law)
Hugh Dillon (NSW Coroners Court)
Will Eves (University of St Andrews)
Ian Forrest (Oriel College, Oxford)
Renata Grossi (Australian National University)
Maggie Hall (WSU)
Rachel E. Holmes (The University of Cambridge)
Caroline Humfress (University of St Andrews)
Jill Hunter (UNSW)
Lorna Hutson (Merton Professor of English Literature, University of Oxford)
Tom Johnson (The University of York)
Liz Kamali (Harvard Law School) 
Hila Keren (Southwestern Law School)
Laura Kounine (University of Sussex)
Anne Laurence (The Open University, UK)
Kathy Mack (Emerita Professor, Flinders University)
Rebecca F. McNamara (UCLA)
Allan McCay (The University of Sydney/ Macquarie University)
William Ian Miller (Michigan Law School)
Hans Jacob Orning (University of Oslo)
Josh Pallas (UNSW Law)
Susanne Pohl-Zucker (Independent scholar)
Michael Proeve (The University of Adelaide)
Sharyn Roach Anleu (Flinders University)
Senthorun Raj (Keele University)
Kate Rossmanith (Macquarie University)
Anna Boeles Rowland (The University of Oxford)
Alecia Simmonds (University of Technology Sydney)
Daniel Lord Smail (Harvard University)
Jason Taliadoros (Deakin University)
Kathryn Temple (Georgetown University)
Stephen D. White (Harvard/Emeritus Professor, Emory University)

Cluster Activities

Emotions in the Courtroom, 3‒4 May 2015, University of St Andrews, Scotland

Emotions in Legal Practices: Historical and Contemporary Attitudes Compared, 26‒28 September 2016, The University of Sydney (See our Flickr album here)

Emotions and Forensic Rhetoric, University of St Andrews, Scotland (forthcoming Academic year 2017‒2018)

Main Outcomes

Research and publishing on Emotions and Law

Workshops, symposia and conferences

Formal and informal collaborative supervision and mentoring of graduate students

Interdisciplinary grant applications

Working together with legal practitioners

Public engagement activities

Work in progress

Details of a journal special issue to be announced

The Law’s Two Bodies, University of St Andrews


Judging Remorse - ABC Law Report, Radio National, 27 September 2016

Emotions in Legal Practices Conference: Some Thoughts - Hugh Dillon, Deputy State Coroner, NSW, Histories of Emotion Blog, 18 November 2016


Professor Annalise Acorn (University of Alberta), Punishment as help and the blaming emotions’

Professor John Hudson (University of St Andrews), Frustration leads to anger: laymen and clerics in the courtroom’

Elizabeth Papp Kamali (Harvard) The Role of Anger in Medieval English Felony Adjudication’

Rebecca F. McNamara, The Hidden History of Emotions at Law in Late Medieval England’

Susanne Pohl-Zucker Diminished responsibility and the judgment of manslaughter in Early Modern Germany’

Ian Forest (Oxford University), Faith and Feeling in late medieval litigation’

Hans Jacob Orning (University of Oslo), Law, Anger and Mercy in Norwegian Courts in the high Middle Ages’


Merridee Bailey (membership enquiries)

John Hudson (media outside Australia; general enquiries)

Kimberley-Joy Knight (media Australia)

CHE Members

Merridee L. Bailey

The University of Adelaide


Katie Barclay

The University of Adelaide


Kimberley-Joy Knight

The University of Sydney


David Lemmings

The University of Adelaide


Joanne McEwan

The University of Western Australia


Amy Milka

The University of Adelaide


Charlotte Rose Millar (2016)

The University of Queensland