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Legal Histories

This research cluster provides a collaborative space for academics, PhD students and visiting researchers interested in legal histories.

Its events include the Diversity, Dilemmas and Discoveries conference series:

Members’ areas of expertise include:

  • Gender and ethnicity in the legal professions
  • Sexuality and criminal law
  • Legal biography
  • The reputation and identity of the Victorian criminal Bar
  • The nature and representation of Nazi law
  • Constitutional histories
  • Relationships between commonwealth, colonies, and empire
  • International space law
  • Legal education.

If you would like to contact the cluster, please email us.


Marjan Ajevski

Marjan Ajevski

Prior to coming to the Law School, Marjan was a Visiting-Research Fellow at NYU's Program for International Relations, a post-doc for the PluriCourts Centre of Excellence at the University of Oslo, Norway, and a PhD researcher at the Central European University in Budapest, Hungary, where he has also been a visiting professor. 

Thomas Cheney

Thomas Cheney

Lecturer in Space Governance. Thomas is active in researching space law, policy and governance. His research focuses on planetary protection, space resources, and taking an environmental approach, grounded in legal geography and environmental humanities, to space governance.

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David Dennis

Lecturer in Law

Caroline Derry

Caroline Derry

Senior Lecturer in Law. Caroline’s research interests include the history of gender, sexuality and criminal law. Her monograph Lesbianism and the Criminal Law (Palgrave, 2020) explored the regulation of sexuality and relationships between women from the seventeenth century to the present. She has also published on the history of women at the Bar and is currently researching early ethnic minority women at the Bar of England and Wales as part of an Inns of Court project.

Andrew Gilbert

Andrew Gilbert

Senior Lecturer in Law. Andrew’s research interests include the history of modern anti-racist movements in Britain and their intersection with law. His current work uses archival sources to explore the cases of the Mangrove Nine and the miscarriage of justice concerning George Lindo. Andrew’s book, British Conservatism and the Legal Regulation of Intimate Relationships (Hart Publishing 2018), drew on archival research to examine the development of family law during the latter part of the twentieth century. 

Suki Haider

Suki Haider 

Dr Sukaina Haider (known as Suki) works for the OU on EDI projects.  For several years she has facilitated student-staff partnerships to increase the belonging of traditionally marginalised groups, and has conducted scholarship on how to embed antiracist pedagogy in new modules. She also designs EDI training for the OU’s associate lecturers. She uses her experience as a first-generation graduate, racially-minoritised woman and as a carer, to highlight barriers that limit student inclusion.

She has undergraduate degrees in both history and law. Her PhD focused on women’s crime in twentieth-century Dundee and the approach of the criminal justice system to female offending. This challenged the established history of criminology. Her research interest is in decolonising histories of African enslavement. She is currently exploring Scottish legal history, using wills to challenge the traditional narrative of the lives of Black servants in eighteenth-century Britain.

Liz Hardie

Liz Hardie

Teaching Director and Senior Lecturer in Law.  Liz’s research interests include the history of legal education, and in particular clinical legal education.  She is part of a project researching the lives of the early lawyers from a BAME background.  Liz also is interested in the history of family law and in particular the ways in which children and young people were provided with care away from birth parents in the Modern Period, whether through kinship care, the poor law and welfare systems or fostering or adoption.

Carol Howells

Carol Howells

Senior Lecturer in Law. Carol’s work explores how law is used to shape and create identity and belonging and how it is used to marginalise. Her most recent work covers constitutional histories and legal traditions, histories of legal education, and the histories of the legal professions in the United Kingdom. She has a particular interest in the comparative legal history of the UK’s four nations, the role of women both in developing and within constitutions and has undertaken work on legal firsts including first women judges within each nation of the UK.         

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Simon Lavis

Senior lecturer in law. Simon’s research explores the intersection between law, history and theory in relation to the Third Reich, including the historical and philosophical nature of Nazi law, and its representation in academic historical and legal literature. Simon approaches this subject from an interdisciplinary perspective, using critical research methods from across the disciplines.

Simon Lee

Simon Lee

Professor of Law. Simon’s research interests include legal biography, the history of legal education, the history of jurisprudence, and the history of the interaction of law with other disciplines, including philosophy (especially ethics), theology, history, literature, politics, sport, medical science and space science. He also researches in the overlapping spheres of jurisprudence and public law. His research interests range from the micro- to the macro- level, from the role of law and grassroots community activism in the history of the Troubles and the Northern Irish peace process through to being a Co-Investigator on the #AstrobiologyOU £6.7million project funded by Research England, addressing the question, ‘Are we alone in the Universe?’

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Edwin Parks

Senior Lecturer in Law. Edwin’s research interests include constitutional histories, the law’s treatment, at supranational and state level, of nationhood for marginalised communities. His current research interests include the relationships between commonwealth, colonies, and empire. His work explores the historical development of legal concepts and the histories of case law and judiciary.  Edwin’s research interests are influenced by his practice across both civil and common law jurisdictions. 

Edward Rees

Edward Rees

Edward Rees was called to the Bar in 1973. Specialising in criminal defences (excluding sexual and racist offences), he was appointed a Queen's Counsel in 1998. He was awarded an MA in History (OU) in 2019. Publications include Blackstone's Guide to the Proceeds of Crime Act (5 editions, Oxford: OUP, 2015), The Law of Public Order and Protest (ed. Thornton, Oxford: OUP, 2010).


Derry, Caroline (2022). The ‘legal’ in socio-legal history: Woods and Pirie v Cumming Gordon. Journal of Law and Society, 49(4) pp. 778–799.

Cheney, Thomas (2022). Universe Exploration and Colonization. In: Failat, Yanal Abu and Ferreira-Snyman, Anél eds. Outer Space Law: Legal Policy and Practice, 2nd edition. Globe Law and Practice, pp. 161–174.

Lavis, Simon (2020). ‘No one wants the taint of an association with the crimes of Nazism’: (Sometimes) in search of the meaning of Nazi Law. Holocaust Studies: A Journal of Culture and History, 26(1) pp. 108–122.

Derry, Caroline (2020). Lesbianism and the Criminal Law: Three Centuries of Regulation in England and Wales. Basingstoke: Palgrave.

Lavis, Simon; Cercel, Cosmin; Fusco, and Gian Giacomo eds. (2020). States of Exception: Law, History, Theory. Law and Politics. Abingdon: Routledge.

Howells, Carol and Parks, Edwin (2020). Devolution, debate and change: Changing the UK's constitutional settlements. In: Claydon, Lisa; Derry, Caroline and Ajevski, Marjan eds. Law in Motion: 50 years of Legal Change. The Open University Law School, pp. 17–36.

Hardie, Liz; Mcfaul, Hugh and Ryan, Francine (2020). 50 years of Clinical Legal Education: Looking Back to the Future. In: Claydon, Lisa; Derry, Caroline and Ajevski, Marjan eds. Law in Motion: 50 years of Legal Change. The Open University Law School, pp. 212–227.

Ajevski, Marjan (2020). The Triumph of International Law: The Clash of Ideas That Shapes International Law. In: Claydon, Lisa and Derry, Caroline eds. Law in Motion: 50 Years of Legal Change. Milton Keynes: Open University Law School, pp. 67–88.

Lavis, Simon (2020). Nazi Law as Pure Instrument: Natural Law, (Extra-)Legal Terror, and the Neglect of Ideology. In: Klimaszewska, Anna and Gałędek, Michał eds. Modernisation, National Identity, and Legal Instrumentalism: Studies in Comparative Legal History (Vol. II: Public Law), Volume 36. Brill, pp. 192–216.

Derry, Caroline (2020). Ethel Bright Ashford: more and less than a role model. Women's History Review, 29(4) pp. 615–635.

Lavis, Simon (2019). Nazi Law as Non-law in Academic Discourse. In: Skinner, Stephen ed. Ideology and Criminal Law: Fascist, National Socialist and Authoritarian Regimes. Oxford: Hart Publishing, pp. 59–76.

Howells, Carol (2018). Cyfraith Hywel (The Laws of Hywel Dda), c. 940. In: Rackley, Erika and Auchmuty, Rosemary eds. Women's Legal Landmarks: Celebrating the history of women and law in the UK and Ireland. Hart Publishing.

Derry, Caroline (2018). DPP v Jonathan Cape and Leopold Hill (1928). In: Rackley, Erika and Auchmuty, Rosemary eds. Women's Legal Landmarks: Celebrating 100 Years of Women and Law in the UK and Ireland. Hart Publishing.

Derry, Caroline (2018). Lesbianism and Feminist Legislation in 1921: the Age of Consent and 'Gross Indecency between Women'. History Workshop Journal, 86 pp. 245–267.

Derry, Caroline (2018). Ashford, Ethel Bright (1883–1980). Oxford University Press.

Derry, Caroline (2018). Clapham, Olive Catherine [married name Miles] (1898–1973). Oxford University Press.

Derry, Caroline (2018). Cobb, Monica Mary Geikie (1891–1946). Oxford University Press.

Derry, Caroline (2017). ‘Female Husbands’, Community and Courts in the Eighteenth Century. Journal of Legal History, 38(1) pp. 54–79.

Ajevski, Marjan (2016). Post-national (international) law at the end of history. International Politics Reviews, 4(2) pp. 45–54.

Verma, Shraddha and Gray, Sid J. (2009). The development of company law in India: The case of the Companies Act 1956. Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 20(1) pp. 110–135.