Skip to Main Content

Legal research for historians: Great Britain


Manual of law librarianship : the use and organization of legal literature. Edited by Elizabeth M. Moys. 2nd ed. Boston, Mass. : G.K. Hall, c1987.
RECAP Z675.L2 M27 1986

English legal history: a bibliography and guide to the literature. W.D. Hines with contributions by R.W. Ireland, P.J. Rawlings, C.P. Rodgers. New York : Garland Pub., 1990.
Firestone KD532.A1 M56 1990
Though now 20 years old, the extended historiographic essay is a very useful starting point for understanding the history of legal history in Britain.

An introduction to English legal history. J.H. Baker. 3rd ed. London ; Boston : Butterworths, 1990.
Firestone Library (F) KD532 .B34 1990

Note of thanks: this libguide is deeply indebted to a typescript finding aid, prepared by my predecessors in 1985, A finding guide to British legal sources in Firestone Library. Compiled by Daniel R. Ernst. Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University, [1985] Trustee Reading Room Reference (DR) KD56 .P74 1985. The older version is now superseded, in part because of changes to locations and call numbers; also, many items listed are now available in digital collections

Legal citations

Got a citation to law report? The first place to check is the Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations (U.K.) You may also consult:

Prince’s Bieber dictionary of legal abbreviations: a reference guide for attorneys, legal secretaries, paralegals, and law students. Mary Miles Prince. 6th ed. Buffalo, N.Y. : W. S. Hein & Co., 2009.
Trustee Reading Room Reference (DR): Ready Ref. Firestone KF246 .B46 2009

Got a citation to a statute?

Statutes are cited by regnal year and Parliamentary session up until 1963. Lists of regnal years can be found in many legal reference books and at

Chronological table of the statutes. London : H.M.S.0., c1979.
Trustee Reading Room Reference (DR): Firestone KD142.3 .xC5 1979

This lists all statutes in order, and is very useful for following the subsequent history of a statute as it is repealed or superseded by later legislation. Citations can usually be tracked down in sources listed under Statutes or, as bills, in the House of Commons Parliamentary Papers -- search by Parliamentary session and using keywords from the title of the statute.

Looking for a statute by title? Many statutes are known by "short titles" or by the names of their sponsors or of the place where they were enacted. Consult:

Manual of legal citations. London, 1959  [i.e. 1960]
Trustee Reading Room Reference (DR): Firestone KD400 .xM3 1959

Or consult the Short Titles Act 1892, Short Titles Act 1896, and the Statute Law Revision Act 1948, in House of Commons Parliamentary Papers.