Law and History Review

Reflections on Further Research in Comparative Legal History

Rethinking ‘the Nation’ in National Legal History: A Canadian Perspective

Philip Girard c1 and Jim Phillips

In 1929, when Lorna Parsons tired of her four-year marriage to a London, Ontario tailor, she decided to seek a divorce—in Reno, Nevada. Even though Lorna's divorce was not generally recognized in Canada, obtaining it was important to her and to the hundreds, if not thousands, of Canadians who similarly sought United States divorces at a time when Canadian law was extremely restrictive. The choices of Parsons and her compatriots should be of interest to legal historians. They problematize the idea of national legal history by reminding us that law does not always remain in the tidy jurisdictional containers constructed by legal authorities and academics. National boundaries are more porous, and the nature of law itself more fluid, than we often admit.

(Online publication May 09 2011)



Philip Girard is university research professor and professor of law, history and Canadian studies at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia <>. Jim Phillips is professor of law, history and criminology at the University of Toronto, and editor-in-chief of the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History <>. We are grateful for comments received when the paper was presented at the British Legal History Conference in July 2009, and for comments from David Tanenhaus, Susan Boyd, and Law and History Review's anonymous reviewers. We acknowledge funding provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.