The project examines the pivotal role of commissions of inquiry in reforming law throughout the British Empire from 1815 to 1840. Using traditional methods and digital tools, this international collaboration will be the first to investigate the design, instantiation and impact of inquiry on colonial law. We will also explore the transformation of the imperial constitution and mechanisms of imperial governance across the Empire. 

The research will enhance our understanding of law reform, the historical functions of commissions of inquiry, and the legacy of British imperial rule throughout the world. Our international team draws together historians of culture, law and governance, experts in digital research methods, and a linguist who specialises in corpus linguistics analysis. 

In addition to historical methodology, our project uses data gathering protocols drawn from the social sciences, linguistics and law. 

Funding agency

Australian Research Council / Discovery Project (DP180100537)


The University of Sydney, The University of New England, University of Sussex, UK, Royal Holloway University of London, University of Virginia, Duke University


•    Professor Lisa Ford
•    Dr. Stephen Doherty