Doctorate Thesis: ‘Justice in the Premises’

In the early nineteenth-century, before the system of private prosecutions gave way to the public prosecution system we now know –and before the rise of many civic welfare institutions and social movements dedicated to combating child abuse, spousal battery, protecting the mentally ill, animal welfare and the like–how did Montreal courts grapple with the issue of family violence? Given the sanctity of the family and the public / private sphere dichotomy, we might expect that they chose not to deal with some of these issues at all. This thesis uses the voluminous primary sources of the judicial archives to look systematically as to how courts dealt with cases involving infanticide, child abuse, family violence and spousal murder. In so doing, a clearer picture of the causes of these forms of social pathology and its similarities across jurisdictions and time periods emerges, as well as an indication that courts were willing to interpose themselves into the family sphere to protect children and vulnerable spouses against physical aggression.

Justice in the Premises: Family Violence and the Law in Montreal, 1825 – 1850
(McGill University, Institute of Comparative Law, Doctor of Civil Law thesis, 2003).


Doctorate Thesis: ‘Justice in the Premises’ — 3 Comments

  1. Hello– I’ve been doing research into domestic violence in 19th century Canada as part of my doctoral work at York and your thesis is obviously right on topic. I am guessing the answer is no, based on the articles you have posted here, but just in case: have you published your thesis in any form? I wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing any of your articles in my lit review. Also, would you mind if I email you some questions I have about your work? thanks, Scott

    • hi Scott– certainly– best way to reach me is at With respect to publishing the thesis, I have only recently turned my attentions to that but there are indeed some articles coming out that are derived from my thesis. I have contributed a book chapter on child abuse prosecutions in early 19th century Montreal that will be appearing in next year’s edition of Essays in Canadian Legal History by the Osgoode Society, edited by Blaine Baker and Donald Fyson; and also I have an article derived from my work on infanticide that has been accepted by the Law and History Review. While it has been in the publication queue for quite some time now, it is due out next year as well. I will post them here once they are available. Thanks, Ian

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *