The Stair Society: Scotland’s Legal History Society

Reshaping Private Law in Victorian Britain: The View from Westminster

Michael Lobban


Although, from the 1870s, we can trace a growing role of statutory regulation in the fields of public and occupational health, as well as growing intervention through what was known as ‘municipal socialism’, for most of the century, government remained small and non-interventionist. The economy operated within a structure of private-law rules which were not for the most part the stuff of high political debate, but were determined by judges and jurists in the courtroom and classroom, or by law reformers seeking to alter particular legal regimes. These rules were not static, providing a simple unchanging framework within which the economy would operate: they changed and developed significantly in the course of the century. The aim of this article is to explore some of these changes in the private-law thinking of the judges of Westminster Hall, and the influences which shaped them.


Miscellany VII (Stair Society 62)


Published 2015


pp. 337-358


Open Access DOI