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United Kingdom Legal Research

Sources at HLS, Harvard University and open sites for researching the law of the United Kingdom.

UK Law Databases

Best Bets for UK Legal Research

Print Collection Locations

Call Number Ranges for UK Legal Materials

The print collection of UK law is in the Reading Room on the north end.

KD Law of the United Kingdom and Ireland
KD51-9500 Law of England and Wales
KD8850-9312 Local Laws of England
KD9320-9355 Local Laws of Wales
KD9400-9500 Law of Wales
KDC51-990 Law of Scotland
KDE21-580 Law of Northern Ireland

Statutes and Statutory Instruments

Legislation, Statutory Instruments and Bills

Unlike United States jurisdictions, the United Kingdom does not codify their statutes into subject-arranged publications.  Statutes are individually amended and retain their original title and date. Statute sources below have tools to trace historical versions and to determine if subsequent amendments exist.

The relationship between European Union legislation and UK legislation may be changing. See this useful explanation of EU Legislation and UK legislation, before and after Brexit.

Citators and Research Aids

Historical Statutes

Interpreting Early Statute Citations

English statutes enacted before 1963 are cited by regnal year and chronological order of passage.

2 Hen 5, c. 7

regnal year, monarch, regnal number, chapter

The regnal year is the year within a given monarch's reign. Regnal years begin on the date of ascension to the throne; they do not correspond to calendar years.   2 Hen 5, c. 7 refers to the 7th Act passed in the 2nd year of the reign of Henry V . The 2nd year of Henry V's reign ran from March 21, 1414 to March 20, 1414

If your citation provides a calendar year, be aware that there can be differences between the legal year and the calendar year during historical periods. Before the 14th century, the legal year began on December 25 (Christmas). Between the 14th century and 1751, the legal year began on March 25. More information about British dates can be found on the Wikipedia page on the Calendar Act of 1750

Historical Statutes: 1800s

Most statutes from the 1800s are included in current online sources. HLS Library also holds print-format serials of UK Statutes that cover through 1870.

Historical Statutes: Statutes at Large (1200s through 1700s)

Confusingly, the title Statutes at Large can refer to any of several compilations of statutes from 1235-early 1800s published during the 18th and 19th centuries.  Some Statutes at Large compilations cover a longer range of years and include statutes that do not appear in Statutes of the Realm. The most cited versions are digitized and available in Harvard-subscribed databases. Note that HLS Library holds several of these in print format. For help locating a particular version, please see a reference librarian.

For a catalog of the published versions of the English Session Laws between 1640-1702, see Matthew Seccombe, English Session Laws, 1640-1702: A Short-Title Catalogue of Serially Published English Statutes from the Sixteenth Year of Charles I thorugh the Fourteenth Year of William III, Including the Interregnum.

Historical Statutes to 1713

Parliamentary Materials

Parliamentary Documents and Debate

Parliament: Historical Materials

Command Papers

Command papers are government documents presented to Parliament. Individual papers address policy initiatives, reports of official inquiries or Royal Commissions, and treaties and international agreements.

They are issued in series, noted by letter prefixes.

In HOLLIS, many Command Papers are individually cataloged by title, but each series is entered as a journal.  See this HOLLIS search for the various series with details below.

Series

Prefix Designation

Years of Publication

[1st Series]

1 - 4220

1833 - 1869

 2nd Series

C 1 - C 9550

1870 - 1899

3rd Series

Cd 1 - Cd 9239

1900 - 1918

4th Series

Cmd 1 - Cmd 9889

1919 - 1956

5th Series

Cmnd 1 - Cmnd 9927

1956 - Nov. 1986

6th Series

Cm 1 - Cm

Nov. 1986 - present

UK Treaties

Treaties

UK Cases

Cases

Court Rules

UK Dockets

UK Court Dockets and Legal Notices

Secondary Sources

Encyclopedic Overviews

Treatise Collections

Law Journals

Getting Help

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