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  • Sangitha Namasoo

What Is It About Historians Ending Up At The Bar?


As one who has had a stellar career at the Bar, it may come as some surprise that Jonathan Crow never set out to be a barrister. His initial foray into tertiary education was to read history at the University of Oxford’s Magdalene College. Calling history the one subject he loved, Crow wanted to study 17th century England. Instead, he found himself learning medieval history, which was not his cup of tea.


Crow’s journey to the Bar began after graduating, when he found himself unemployed. Taking to heart advice from his father on how ‘earning a salary is awfully overrated’, Crow decided to pursue another qualification, one that appeared more useful, and chose law. In this, Crow’s love for history proved influential – he credits his fascination with English constitutional history and the evolution of the relationship between the crown, nobility, church and commons into parliamentary democracy as reasons for his choice.


This path to the Bar may seem unconventional, but Crow is not the only one to have taken this route. Former UK Supreme Court Justice, Jonathan Sumption and former Attorney General, Dominic Grieve both have a background in history as well.


While Crow admits that he did not find studying law interesting, he found legal practice to be similar to the study of history as both require the ability to sift through a large body of information and identifying the relevant points in order to form a theory or argument.


From his interview, Crow comes across as being a pragmatist and it is this pragmatism that appears to have guided him as an advocate. Crow attributes this to his upbringing as well as his background as an historian, which he says makes him an outsider. This pragmatism also means that Crow refuses to worship or revere the law, instead treating it as a tool to be used in order to achieve results for one’s clients.




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