Framing the Archives as Evidence: A Study of Correspondence Documenting the Place of Australia’s Original High Court in a New Commonwealth Polity

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Abstract

History in itself is fascinating, being the story of the human condition
and the emergence of our species to what we hope is, and will be, a higher
plane of peace and security, economic equity and respect for fundamental
rights. History has an important component. That is why a life in law can
never be far from history.

When the Court sat at Noon on Saturday 29th April, it was announced
from the Bench that circumstances had arisen which left us no alternative
but to postpone the sittings of the Court appointed to be held in
Melbourne on the following Tuesday (2nd May) … We did not resort to
this means until the position had become intolerable.

However, for the remainder of this chapter, the focus is less on the details
of this intriguing narrative, and instead, provides a twofold response to
a question regarding methodology. Namely, how or in what way has
the extraordinary story of this jurisprudential narrative been shaped
by the evidence that remains in existing archival materials?

First, my analysis will provide a brief discussion of the impact made by
a series of key preserved court and departmental letters known as the
‘official correspondence’21 in shaping this curious tale. Then, second,
a series of observations will be presented to understand something about
the nature of the sway of an alternative history—as revealed through the
personal correspondence exchanged between then Parliamentarian Alfred
Deakin22 and the High Court Justices throughout the dispute.
the extraordinary story of this jurisprudential narrative been shaped
by the evidence that remains in existing archival materials?
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Court as Archive
EditorsAnn Genovese, Trish Luker, Kim Rubenstein
Place of PublicationCanberra, Australia
PublisherANU Press
Chapter5
Pages123-144
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9781760462710
ISBN (Print)9781760462703
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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Cite this

PRIEST, S. (2019). Framing the Archives as Evidence: A Study of Correspondence Documenting the Place of Australia’s Original High Court in a New Commonwealth Polity. In A. Genovese, T. Luker, & K. Rubenstein (Eds.), The Court as Archive (pp. 123-144). Canberra, Australia : ANU Press. https://doi.org/10.22459/CA.2019