The importance of space in law

Legal geography is a vibrant and developing cross-discipline that enables us to ask questions about how places and spaces are produced over time. Introducing the field, this presentation will begin with an overview of key ways of working in legal geography, outlining concepts of place and spatiality as well as legal geography’s neologisms: lawscapes, splices, nomospheres and chronotopes. To underpin this theoretical discussion, the presentation will consider the 1884 case of R v Dudley and Stephens (the murdered cabin boy) asking whether there are times when legal practices should be aspatial and, if so, how we decide when and where spatiality matters. How do we become spatial detectives?

The second part of the presentation will consider gardens and gardening, focusing on an activity that connects to the core of land law, which emphasises posession and has been explained as a ‘gut sense’, so that its rules are instinctively understood as common sense. What could be a more essential use of space than gardening: getting your hands dirty, making the earth productive, and transforming the land over time? Gardening provides a lens for the better understanding of performance, time and boundaries in land law. This presentation considers examples of gardens at different scales, which affect property rights over land in state, private and/or collective ownership.

Lastly, the presentation will consider the New Forest – a story of people, time and place, telling the story of the New Forest to demonstrate the intimate connection between the legal frame, a place and its ecology and the people who use (and sometimes abuse) that place over a millennium. Clearly over that time much has changed in the interconnection between people and this unique place which is reflect in the regulation of this inter-relationship but what is enduring is the necessity to reconcile competing demands and aspirations of people and place.