Wilfrid Prest

Wilfrid Prest (born 1940) is a historian, specialising in legal history, who is professor emeritus at the University of Adelaide. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society,[1] the Australian Academy of the Humanities[2] and the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia , as well as being a Fellow of Queen's College, University of Melbourne.

He has published four sole-author books, two scholarly textual editions, nine edited collections, numerous journal articles and entries in works of reference.


Born in Melbourne of English parents and educated at schools in Melbourne, York and Cambridge, Wilfrid Prest read history at the University of Melbourne and then studied for his doctorate at the University of Oxford. He became a lecturer at the University of Adelaide in 1966. He subsequently spent two years (1969–71) as assistant professor at The Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, before returning to the University of Adelaide, where he remained a member of the history department until July 2002. Between 1978 and 1985, he was also chairman of the Board of the Art Gallery of South Australia.

In 2002 he resigned his personal chair in History to take up an Australian Research Council Australian Professorial Fellowship; he moved to the Law School in 2003, and subsequently held his fellowship as a joint appointment between Law and History, while preparing a biography of William Blackstone. He is currently general editor of the forthcoming Oxford variorum edition of Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England.

Published works


As editor

  • Lawyers in Early Modern Europe and America (London: Croom Helm, 1981; New York: Holmes and Meier, 1981)
  • The Professions in Early Modern England (London: Croom Helm, 1987)
  • The Diary of Sir Richard Hutton, Justice of Common Pleas 1617–1639, with Related Documents (London: Selden Society, 1991)
  • John Bray: Law, Letters, Life (Adelaide, Wakefield Press, 1997)
  • (with Kerrie Round and Carol Susan Fort), The Wakefield Companion to South Australian History (Adelaide: Wakefield Press, 2001)
  • (with Sharyn Roach-Anleu) Litigation Past and Present' (Kensington, NSW: University of New South Wales Press, 2003)
  • The Letters of Sir William Blackstone, 1743–1780 (London: Selden Society, 2006)

Articles in Edited Volumes

  • "Why the history of professions is not written", in G. Rubin and David Sugarman (eds.), Law, Economy and Society 1750–1914: Essays in the History of English Law (Oxford: Professional Books Ltd., 1984)
  • "The experience of litigation in eighteenth-century England", in D. Lemmings (ed.), The British and their Laws in the Eighteenth Century (Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, 2005), pp. 133–54
  • "Legal Autobiography in Early Modern England", in R. Bedford, L. Davies and P. Kelly (eds.), Early Modern Autobiography: Theories, Genres, Practices (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2006), pp. 280–94

Entries in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

  • Archer, Sir John (1598–1682), judge
  • Ball, Sir Peter (bap. 1598, d. 1680), lawyer and antiquary
  • Blackstone, Sir William (1723–1780), legal writer and judge
  • Bulstrode, Edward (c.1588–1659), judge
  • Cook, John (bap. 1608, d. 1660), judge and regicide
  • Crewe [Crew], Sir Randolph (bap. 1559, d. 1646), judge
  • Denham, Sir John (1559–1639), judge
  • Finch, Sir Henry (c.1558–1625), author and lawyer
  • Foster, Sir Thomas (1548–1612), judge
  • Greene, John (1578–1653), sergeant-at-law
  • Harvey, Sir Francis (c.1568–1632), judge and politician
  • Hitcham, Sir Robert (bap. 1573, d. 1636), barrister and politician
  • Hoskins, John (1566–1638), poet and judge
  • Hutton, Sir Richard (bap. 1561, d. 1639), judge
  • Hyde, Sir Nicholas (c.1572–1631), barrister and politician
  • Hyde, Sir Robert (1595/6–1665), barrister and politician
  • Ley, James, first earl of Marlborough (1550–1629), judge and politician
  • Malet, Sir Thomas (c.1582–1665), judge and politician
  • Moore, Sir Francis (1559–1621), lawyer and politician
  • Nicolls, Sir Augustine (1559–1616), judge
  • Pagitt, Justinian (1611/12–1668), lawyer and diarist
  • Rokeby, Ralph (c.1527–1596), lawyer and administrator
  • Walter, Sir John (bap. 1565, d. 1630), judge and politician
  • Warburton, Sir Peter (c.1540–1621), judge
  • Wilde, Sir William, first baronet (c.1611–1679), judge and politician
  • Winch, Sir Humphrey (1554/5–1625), judge

Journal Articles

  • 'Legal Education of the Gentry at the Inns of Court, 1560–1640', Past & Present, 38 (1967): 20–39
  • 'Stability and Change in Old and New England: Clayworth and Dedham', Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 6 (1976): 359–374
  • 'The Dialectical Origins of Finch's Law', Cambridge Law Journal, 36 (1977): 326–352
  • 'Judicial Corruption in Early Modern England', Past & Present, 133 (1991): 67–95
  • 'Predicting Civil War Allegiances: The Lawyers' Case Considered', Albion: A Quarterly Journal Concerned with British Studies, 24 (1992): 225–236
  • '"One Hawkins, A Female Sollicitor": Women Lawyers in Augustan England', The Huntington Library Quarterly, 57 (1994): 353–358
  • 'William Lambarde, Elizabethan Law Reform, and Early Stuart Politics', The Journal of British Studies, 34 (1995): 464–480
  • '"To Die in the Term": The Mortality of English Barristers', Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 26 (1995): 233–249
  • 'Blackstone as Architect: Constructing the Commentaries', Yale Journal of Law and the Humanities, 15 (2003): 103–133
  • 'Antipodean Blackstone: the Commentaries "Down Under"', Flinders University Journal of Law Reform, 6 (2003): 151–167
  • 'The Religion of a Common Lawyer? William Blackstone's Anglicanism', Parergon, 23 (2004): 153–68
  • 'Reconstructing the Blackstone Archive: Or, Blundering after Blackstone', Archives, 31 (2006): 108–118


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