New book on the continuity of legal systems

18 January 2015

New book by Dr Benjamin Spagnolo

With a look into our legal system from colonial times through to the 21st century, Dr Benjamin Spagnolo has published his first book, examining the phenomenon of the continuity of legal systems with a particular focus on Australian law and history.

The Continuity of Legal Systems in Theory and Practice is a product of Ben’s doctoral research at Oxford. The book was recently launched by the Hon Robert French AC, Chief Justice of Australia, at a function hosted by the University of Western Australia, where Ben earned first class honours in law and arts. In February, Professor John Finnis FBA will chair a panel discussion in Oxford focusing on the book, with contributions from Professor Timothy Endicott and Professor Joshua Getzler.

When one of our scholars publishes his or her first book, it’s a proud moment at the Menzies Foundation, especially when the book comes about as a direct result of their scholarship! Ben is the 2006 Sir Robert Menzies Scholar in Law, which enabled him to read for the degrees of Bachelor of Civil Law and Master of Philosophy in Law at Oxford.

Ben was elected Penningtons Student (Fellow) and Tutor in Law at Christ Church, Oxford in 2012, where he teaches constitutional law, administrative law and Roman law. He is admitted as a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Western Australia and served as an Associate to the Hon Murray Gleeson AC in the High Court of Australia.

The Continuity of Legal Systems in Theory and Practice examines a persistent and fascinating question about the continuity of legal systems: when is a legal system existing at one time the same legal system that exists at another time?

The book combines abstract critical analysis of two of the most developed theories of legal systems with an evaluation of their capacity, in practice, to explain the facts, attitudes and normative standards for which they purport to account. That evaluation is undertaken by reference to Australian constitutional law and history, whose diverse and complex phenomena make it particularly apt for evaluating the theories’ explanatory power.

As it happens, Sir Robert Menzies is cited twice in the course of the book’s survey of constitutional and legal change in Australia between 1788 and 2001.

As well as being Australia’s longest-serving Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies graduated with first class honours in law from the University of Melbourne, had his own private practice in law in Melbourne and then – when he went into politics – went on to be Attorney-General, first of Victoria and then of Australia.