Acceptance date
15 September
17 - 20 November

In-person/Face to face; some online attendance will be available.


Change and Continuity

Conference abstracts are invited to engage with the themes, tensions, and dynamics of change and continuity across law and history.

Change and continuity are recurring themes in law and history, the inexorably shifting ebbs and flows as society and its laws adapt to the dynamic contours of space, place, and time; and the physical and metaphysical influences of context. Change presages reform, disruption, and transformation, while continuity assures of stability, permanence, or the perceived comfort of incremental ‘progress’. Change and continuity appear as polar opposites, and they often are, yet at times, they also complement each other, speaking to latent tensions that are both coherent and incoherent and compatible and incompatible, often at the same time.

Change and continuity also remind us of circularity and relativity. As the truism goes, ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’, yet often, it seems that time speeds up (change) while on occasions, it passes more slowly (continuity). Or change and continuity are simply different gears on an erstwhile linear trajectory, where each co-informs and co-constitutes an ongoing confluence of legalities and histories.

We look forward to receiving your abstracts by 31 July. Please send them to

An Early Career Researcher (ECR) session will be held on 17 November 2024. If you are an ECR, please indicate your interest in attending the session on your submission.

  • Papers are invited on any topic, but the conference organisers (Prof. Prue Vines, Prof. John Page and Dr. Henry Kha) particularly welcome abstracts that address the broad themes of ‘Change and Continuity’. Abstracts should be no more than 300 words, and should be accompanied by a short biography (100 words). Panel submissions are also warmly encouraged. Submissions should be sent to

Plenary speakers

Professor Lisa Ford, School of Humanities & Languages, UNSW Sydney

Lisa Ford is Professor of History at the University of New South Wales. She is the prize-winning author of three monographs: Settler Sovereignty: Jurisdiction and Indigenous People in America and Australia, 1788-1836 (Harvard UP, 2010); Rage for Order: The British Empire and the Origins of International Law, 1800-1850 (Harvard UP, 2016), co-authored with Professor Lauren Benton; and The King's Peace: Law and Order in the British Empire (Harvard UP, 2021). Professor Ford has also co-edited two books: with Tim Rowse, Between Indigenous and Settler Governance (Routledge 2013); and with Peter Cane and Mark McMillan, The Cambridge Legal History of Australia (Cambridge UP, 2022).

  • Commissions of inquiry were sent to diagnose law, governance, and economy in almost every British colony between 1819 and 1833. They produced an enormous archive of public and private commentary on the nature of colonial law, the imperial constitution, and the social and political life of the colonies. This was a counter-revolutionary, conservative project, yet its findings underpinned some stunningly ambitious efforts to reconstitute the empire, as my colleagues Kirsten McKenzie, Naomi Parkinson, David Roberts and I outline in a forthcoming book.

    In this address, I will use our project to explore the dynamics of continuity and change in the processes of nineteenth-century conservative reform. I will do so by focusing on the archive itself. Drawing from examples across the empire, I will outline how the ways commissioners gathered, stored and communicated information shaped the outcomes of their inquiries. I will show how key bureaucrats used (and ignored) this information to turn reform ideas into pan-imperial templates that themselves contain important articulations of the nature and limits of the imperial constitution. And I will explain how this sprawling and diverse archive profoundly shaped our own research questions.

Professor Warren Swain, Auckland Law School, University of Auckland | Waipapa Taumata Rau

Warren Swain is a Professor of Law at the Faculty of Law at the University of Auckland. Educated at Hertford College, Oxford, he lectured at Hertford College and the Universities of Birmingham and Durham in the UK and was a Professor the TC Beirne School of Law, the University of Queensland. He is a Life Member of Clare Hall, University of Cambridge and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in the UK in recognition of his contribution to historical scholarship. He has widely published on both modern private law and the history of private law. He has written several books including, The Law of Contract 1670-1870 with the Cambridge University Press. An edited collection with Sagi Peari, Rethinking Unjust Enrichment: History, Sociology, and Theory published by the Oxford University Press was just published.

  • Few scholars, except perhaps the most quixotic of legal theorists, and certainly no respectable legal historian, would suggest that the law of contract can be extracted from the society in which it operates. It would be ridiculous to suggest that contracts in ancient Mesopotamia, the Roman Empire and nineteenth century London, were anything other than quite different in character. But in making that assertion another angle is typically overlooked. Context should not exclude all other considerations. Features of the law of contract in quite different societies show lawyers grappling with some problems which, if not identical, are, on closer inspection, in fact quite similar. This is not a reflection of some legal land of lost content, nor some nostalgic vision of a golden age, nor even a theory of legal transplants. Differences between legal systems geographically and across time are very real. I would, nevertheless, suggest that other sorts of valid comparisons can be made. For want of a better terminology these might be termed echoes – or a study of the way that different legal systems approach what are at base analogous problems.

Professor John Page, School of Private and Commercial Law, UNSW Sydney

John Page is a Professor in the School of Private and Commercial Law in the Faculty of Law & Justice at the University of New South Wales, Sydney. His research explores the diversity of property in the common law tradition. His most recent book, The Lawful Forest: A Critical History of Property, Protest and Spatial Justice (with Cristy Clark) (Edinburgh University Press 2022) was the winner of the 2023 Penny Pether Prize for its contributions to the scholarship of law, literature and humanities in Australasia.

  • This paper explores the notion that our lawful relations with land are not always rational. Or indeed, of this world. These landed relationships cannot be categorised as simply transactional, or efficient, or involving the exercise, enjoyment, or enforcement of prosaic property rights such as the right to exclude, the right to alienate, the right to possess, and so on. Rather, such ‘less than rational’ relations are, what I term ‘metaphysical,’ adopting a dictionary definition meaning, ‘of, or relating to the transcendent, or to a reality beyond what is perceptible to the senses.’ Similes for ‘metaphysical’ include ‘abstract’, ‘esoteric’, ‘spiritual’, ‘philosophical’, or even ‘supernatural’.

    There is a rich heritage of interests in land that speak of relationships that evoke or imagine the metaphysical. They subsist alongside a series of fault lines where the ancient and the modern, the sacred and the secular, the worldly and the otherworldly, and the ‘enchanted' and the ‘disenchanted’, converge and coalesce. This is an interstitial, amorphous space that has been largely lost to plain sight due to the narrow, ahistorical understanding of real property that dominates our contemporary understanding of the institution, and its laws, customs, doctrines and theories.

    This paper looks to the past to explain (or at least identify) this hidden, largely peripheral, often arcane, yet extant present of things metaphysical in real property. This paper seeks to remind us of the institutional mysteries of land, our ancient lawful relations with it, and the sometimes-strange contours of property law that reflect this provenance.

ECR session

ANZLHS Early Career Researcher (ECR) Session

Sunday 17 November 2024, 3 – 5 pm

ECRs who are either currently postgraduate research students or 5 years post-PhD are welcome to attend the first ever ECR session. Join us on Sunday 17 November 2024, 3–5 pm at the UNSW Faculty of Law and Justice for an enriching afternoon dedicated to navigating the academic landscape. The discussions will be panel led. Gain practical advice on surviving the PhD journey, refining research methodologies, and carving a path to success in academia. Furthermore, this session will offer assistance with paper presentations, practical career guidance and support to effectively showcase your research findings to the wider academic community.

Following the session, all conference attendees are welcome to attend the welcome drinks starting at 5 pm.


Prof. Prue Vines – Professor, University of New South Wales (ANZLHS President)

Dr. Henry Kha – Senior Lecturer, University of New South Wales (ANZLHS Treasurer)

Ms. Inma Conde – PhD Candidate, University of Sydney (ANZLHS ECR Representative)


To be advised later in the year.


Registration will be opened later in the year.


Accommodation options in the Sydney CBD and Eastern Suburbs will be advised before registration later in the year.