Freedom of expression has become a right; yet, it is a qualified right that comes with responsibilities to respect personal reputation. By 1950, tension between reputation and this freedom had become acute in Britain whose laws of defamation remain uniquely robust. Why? What can this outlier tell us about the relationship between state, individuals, community, and the law?
Until now, defamation law has been in the domain of legal scholars. Their work, though important, focuses on judicial decisions from which they argue that Britain followed a straightforwardly liberal trajectory; by c. 1810, reputation was no longer about honor but commerce and credit worthiness. This account is not satisfying, especially as it cannot attend to the cultural importance of honor or ongoing debates over what and whose reputation the law should defend.
In this talk, Caroline Shaw will outline her historical account of reputation and the law over the last two centuries, focusing – for the purpose of the talk – on the relationship between the defense of personal reputation and calls for the ‘liberty of the press.’ The two evolved together, Shaw highlights; a caveat for reputation remained a critical compromise in the making of a free press from the 1790s through the 1960s.
The New Research on Europe Seminar
serves as a weekly forum in which CES Visiting Scholars present their
work. Scholars present their work in a form accessible to scholars
working in fields other than their own. Papers may be circulated in
advance, although this is not required.
The seminar encourages
discussions across disciplinary as well as national boundaries. After
each presentation, there is ample time for critique and discussion,
followed by the CES Friday Lunch. This seminar is open to the public.