More detailed resources on legal history can be found in these pages and research guides created by Harvard Law School Librarians:
These guides from other law schools may be helpful when identifying resources. Links may be restricted, but we may have Harvard access to the databases. Check Harvard E-Resources for access.
Early treatises can be an important source for discovering the law and early cases.
These comprehensive collections of online texts include treatises, pamphlets and primary legal materials.
Several historical databases include early case reporters and collections of laws:
Case citations from early works can be hard to decipher. Early collections of case decisions were cited by the name of the clerk who reported the cases, and citation formats were not standard.
Here are some tips for finding and interpreting early nominative and non-standard citations:
Digests are a useful tool for finding case citations organized by subject. Digest can cover a court, a jurisdiction or a subject.
Accounts and documents for notable trials were sometimes published in books, newspapers or pamphlets. Others have been gathered into historical databases. Other trial documents can be found in libraries and archives.
Our Historical and Special Collections department has also digitized some significant and historically interesting trial records and accounts. Additional digital collections from HSC can be found on their web page.
British statutes are cited by regnal year and chapter. Regnal year refers to the year of a monarch's reign.
For example, 2 Hen. 5, c. 7 refers to the 7th act passed in the 2nd year of the reign of King Henry V which, according to the regnal year chart, was 1414.
Several historical databases include statutes and codes:
In addition to the databases listed under Statutes and Codes, the following sources can be useful for state and federal constitutional history.
Finding Primary Source Material in Harvard's Archives and Libraries
Primary sources available at Harvard include both published source material, such as correspondence and diaries, and archival materials.
Harvard's special collection libraries and archival repositories are a great source of unique and rare books, historical manuscripts, documents, photographs, maps, artifacts, and numeric data.
Start in HOLLIS
The HOLLIS Catalog contains the records of published sources and of many of the manuscript and document collections located in Harvard's libraries and archives.
Note: Not everything is included in HOLLIS, so in addition to searching HOLLIS, we recommend that you contact the individual repositories for additional holdings information.
HOLLIS Advanced Search Strategies:
Use both Author and Subject searches to find the papers of an individual.
Search by Author or using Author Keywords to find annual reports, proceedings, minutes, etc. produced by an organization.
Add the term "sources" to a subject word search.
Limit by Resource Type such as Archives/Manuscripts
How can you locate specific documents within an archival collection?
Most manuscript and archival collections have a finding aid that provides detailed information about the collection.
Use HOLLIS for Archival Discovery to locate finding aids which describe the contents of faculty papers and other manuscript collections at Harvard.
Compare the HOLLIS record and the finding aid for the Law Library's collection of Joseph Story's papers:
If you are planning a visit to an archive or special collection, make sure to contact them directly before visiting. Many items are stored off site or need special arrangements for use, so give as much lead time as possible.
To schedule a research visit in the Root Room, create a HOLLIS Special Request account which will allow you to place requests to view HSC's material from within HOLLIS.
Next, fill out an appointment request form at least 1 business day in advance and tell us when you would like to visit.
Note that two days advance notice are required for visual materials and modern manuscripts (e.g. faculty papers) as they are stored offsite.
The following collections of papers related to the history of the Harvard Law School have been digitized.
To find other collections, search HOLLIS for Archival Discovery.
Chat with us! Chat with a librarian (HLS only)
Contact Historical & Special Collections at email@example.com
Meet with Us Schedule an online consult with a Librarian
Hours Library Hours
Text Ask a Librarian, 617-702-2728