Skip to Main Content

Researching "Civil Law" Subjects at the Harvard Law School Library

Introduction to "Civil Law" Research at the HLS Library


Corpus Juris Civilis, c. 1300, image of the manuscript held by Harvard's Houghton LibraryThis is a guide to researching "civil law" subjects at the Harvard Law School Library. 

For the purposes of this guide, "civil law" (which is also sometimes referred to as "private law") means areas of law that regulate legal relationships between individuals that are generally covered by the civil code in a civil law jurisdiction. 

These areas of law include the following:

  • Legal Obligations under Contract and Tort
  • Family Law
  • Property Law
  • Law of Succession
  • Remedies

(Note: not included are intellectual property, company law, commercial law, secured transactions, insurance, taxation, or bankruptcy.)

The guide includes links to pre-populated searches of HOLLIS, the Harvard Library electronic catalog, of relevant terms related to each of these categories.  Lists of relevant book series and journal titles are also provided.

If you are an HLS affiliate and need help with research, visit to request help from our staff of research librarians.  If you have comments about this guide, please contact Jennifer, the guide's author, using the contact information at the top of the screen.

(Image: Corpus Juris Civilis, c. 1300, image of the manuscript held by Harvard's Houghton Library,

HOLLIS: The Harvard Library Catalog

Researching Civil Law Subjects Using HOLLIS

Use the HOLLIS library catalog at to search for books, journal articles, and more in the collections of the Harvard libraries.  Search results in HOLLIS can be limited by date, resource type, library location, and more using the options on the right side of the search results screen.

Searching HOLLIS by Subject

HOLLIS features several advanced search fields, including author, title, subject, general keyword, form/genre, ISBN, and more.  Searching by subject can be particularly effective, especially for finding materials in multiple languages. 

A good way to search for books in HOLLIS is to use Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) keywords in the "Subject" field.  Library catalogers use the LCSH controlled vocabulary to indicate the subject(s) of the books that they catalog. However, the "Subject" field in HOLLIS records can also include subject keywords that are not part of the LCSH controlled vocabulary, especially for records of journal articles.

Below are links to results lists for pre-populated HOLLIS searches of LCSH and non-LCSH keywords in the "Subject" field.  All of these searches return relevant results for civil/private law researchers.  Note that most of these searches are very broad.  You will likely want to limit the search results by jurisdiction, date, language, location of the item, type of item, additional keywords, and/or other options.

Civil / Private Law Generally

Family and Personal Status Law

Obligations Under Contract and Tort

HOLLIS Searches: Obligations under Contract and Tort

Property Law

HOLLIS Searches: Property Law


Succession Law

Selected Book Series and Journals

Selected Journals

Below is a list of selected scholarly journals that publish articles primarily on topics related to private/civil law.  Click a link to view the record for the journal in HOLLIS.

Getting Help

Contact Us!

  Ask Us! Submit a question or search our knowledge base.

Chat with us! Chat  with a librarian (HLS only)


 Contact Historical & Special Collections at

 Meet with Us  Schedule an online consult with a Librarian

Hours  Library Hours

Classes View Training Calendar or Request an Insta-Class