The first volume and the planned series as a whole present a great deal of new material by prominent Canadian historians and legal scholars. Although certain Canadian political trials and security crises have received scholarly attention in the past, there has never been a comprehensive and systematic examination of the country's surprisingly rich record in this area. The eighteen essays in Volume I examine this record for the period 1608-1837, covering proceedings in New France, the four Atlantic colonies, the Old Province of Quebec, and the two Canadas. They highlight security law during the American revolution, the wars against revolutionary/Napoleonic France, and the War of 1812; comparative treason law; and the trials of David McLane, Robert Gourlay, Francis Collins, and Joseph Howe, among others. The essays, which extensive use of primary sources (the most illuminating of which appear in a documentary appendix), place the examination of the law and its administration during these events in socio-political and comparative context.
In Uncertain Justice, Beverley Boissery and Murray Greenwood portray a cast of women characters almost as often wronged by the law as they have wronged society. Starting with the Powers trial and continuing to the not-too-distant past, the authors expose the patriarchal values that lie at the core of criminal law, and the class and gender biases that permeate its procedures and applications.
The writing style is similar to that of a popular mystery: "Harriet Henry lay dead. Horribly and indubitably. Her body sprawled against the bed, the head twisted at a grotesque angle. Foam engulfed the grinning mouth." Scholarly analysis combines with the narrative to make Uncertain Justice a fascinating and engaging read.
There is a wealth of information about the emerging and evolving legal system and profession, the state of forensic science, the roles of juries, and the political turmoil and growing resistance to a purely class-based aristocratic form of government.