The Age of Rumpole Is Past? Legal History on British Television

Harmes, Marcus K. ORCID: and Harmes, Meredith A. and Harmes, Barbara ORCID: (2022) The Age of Rumpole Is Past? Legal History on British Television. In: The Impact of Law's History: What’s Past is Prologue. Palgrave Modern Legal History. Springer Nature, Switzerland, pp. 65-82. ISBN 9783030900670


On the release in 2016 of Sally Smith QC’s biography of Sir Edward Marshall Hall called A Law Unto Himself, members of the English bar were seen reading well-thumbed copies of this life of the famous Edwardian barrister. Smith’s biography is not the first time Marshall Hall has risen (figuratively) from the dead. In 1989, his life and courtroom theatrics were brought back to life in the television series Shadow of the Noose. Why however would his life be of appeal and interest to his modern successors and what is learnt from the dramatisation of the legal past, notably the courtroom action? Visions of legal history made in modern television are eclectic, including Garrow’s Law, Poldark, Shadow of the Noose, and Inspector Morse (specifically the episode 'The Wench is Dead'). Even programmes that, at the time of their production were set in the present day, now seem products of an earlier and vanished age such as Rumpole of the Bailey and Everyman’s recreation of the Gay News blasphemous libel trial. Nostalgia can and should be critiqued, but its emergence in television, in biography and in the hands of members of the legal professional also merits interpretation. In an era when the UK Ministry of Justice is criticised by the Bar Council for 'airbrushing' the barrister out of history, and a more general lament that the age of the characterful advocate is past, this chapter considers the range, meaning, impact and potency of a legal history evoked by popular culture.

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Item Type: Book Chapter (Commonwealth Reporting Category B)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Files associated with this item cannot be displayed due to copyright restrictions.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - USQ College (8 Jun 2020 -)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts - School of Humanities and Communication (1 Mar 2019 -)
Date Deposited: 21 Apr 2022 00:10
Last Modified: 17 Oct 2022 23:48
Uncontrolled Keywords: Legal history; television studies
Fields of Research (2020): 43 HISTORY, HERITAGE AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 4303 Historical studies > 430304 British history
48 LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES > 4804 Law in context > 480403 Law and humanities
Socio-Economic Objectives (2020): 28 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 2801 Expanding knowledge > 280113 Expanding knowledge in history, heritage and archaeology
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