PhD Studentship The History of the Colonial Laws Validity Act 1865

University of Portsmouth – Portsmouth Business School

PhD Studentship

Project Title: The History of the Colonial Laws Validity Act 1865

Application Deadline: Friday 19 April

Supervisors: Dr Barry Hough, Mr Donal Coffey

Project Description

Applications are invited to a three-year PhD Studentship in Portsmouth Business School, starting 1 October 2013.

Colonialism necessarily poses the fundamental question whether a colonial people are to be offered similar constitutional arrangements, civil liberties and rights of property as those that obtain in the metropolitan territory, or whether the provincial system of government should, in some sense, be different. Relatedly, the question arises as the extent to which colonial territories enjoy a capacity to pursue legislative autonomy within designated fields. These questions were necessarily posed by the very nature of colonialism. British ideology on this subject had shifted by the close of the eighteenth century, giving rise to problematic litigation in the late 18th and 19th centuries.

The PhD would consider the history leading to the passing of the Colonial Laws Validity Act 1865 (28 & 29 Vict c 63). It would place the Act within the constitution of the British Empire at the time and trace the developments that lead to its genesis, describe how the actions of Justice Boothby precipitated the passage of the Act, and describe how the Act played a role in the subsequent construction of the identity of the British Commonwealth of Nations.

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The topics and the precise research question concerning law making and the locus of constitutional authority, would be agreed with the student, but could cover subjects such as:

1)     The constitutional framework of the British Empire in the early 19th Century.

2)     The actions of Justice Boothby in South Australia which gave rise to the crisis.

3)     The debates surrounding the enactment of the Colonial Laws Validity Act.

4)     The influence that the Act had on subsequent legal doctrine, for example, Merchant Shipping

5)     The influence of the Act on subsequent constitutional developments in the British Commonwealth.

This PhD would be based on an archival analysis of primary historical material. The main sources for such work would include official State documents to be found in the Kew Archives in London, as well as contemporary materials found in the newspapers and academic treatises of the time. This will be supplemented by parliamentary debates and governmental reports, including Colonial Conferences. This will provide an account of the historical circumstances which gave rise to the Act and its aftermath.

The work will also engage in research of secondary material on the Colonial Laws Validity Act. The historical material will be used to develop academic learning in areas unearthed by this literature review.

Enquiries relating to the topic should be directed to: Donal Coffey ( This full-time studentship is open to Home/EU students and is located in Portsmouth Business School. Potential applicants are advised to examine our Research Degree Pages at

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Funding Status

The studentship will cover tuition fees and an annual grant equivalent to that offered by the ESRC – set at £13,720 per annum for 2013/14 for a maximum of three years. UK/EU residence eligibility conditions apply.

How to apply

Qualifications: Applicants will have a good first degree (minimum 2.1 or equivalent) and ideally a Masters (or equivalent) in a relevant subject area.

Applications should include:

  • a full CV including personal details, qualifications, educational history and, where applicable, any employment or other experience relevant to the application
  • contact details for TWO referees able to comment on your academic performance
  • a statement of 1,000 (words) outlining your proposed project, identifying the objectives of the research and discussing how the work will build on or challenge existing research in the above field.

Interviews will be conducted on Thursday 23 May 2013.

Applications should be sent to: Donal Coffey, Postgraduate Centre, University of Portsmouth, Richmond Building, Portland Street, Portsmouth, PO1 3DE (applications can be submitted electronically via: and cc to

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