American Legal History Resources
Kincaid C. Brown
American & Electronic Resources Librarian
University of Michigan Law Library
About the Slideshow
pursuant to the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.
Keep in Mind ...
These materials are old and likely fragile or in poor condition. As such, access to the original may be limited and you may need to use:
- Digitized versions
- Interlibrary loan
- Mediated Access
Microformat: note that printing from microform resources is free at the Law Library.
Reprints: a catalog record should tell you in a note field if that book is a reprint. For example, see the record for the Lawbook Exchange 2005 reprint of "Bardell v. Pickwick" by Charles Dickens in Lexcalibur.
Interlibrary loan: it is unlikely that a library will ILL materials that are very old or in poor condition.
Follow Standard Legal Research Practices
Resources may be different with historical legal research, but the steps remain the same
- Think out your research strategy; come up with keywords and phrases for your searches
- Start with Secondary Sources for background and citation-surfing
- Primary Sources - caselaw, statutes, regulations
- Update your research
- Keep a research log - where you looked and what you found
Note: Historical versions of contemporary sources may differ in title (e.g.Congressional Record) or coverage (e.g. United States Reports). West Key Numbers also often change.
Secondary Sources: Books & Treatises
Use Lexcalibur and other online catalogs to locate relevant books and treatises.
- Do a keyword and once an on-point title is located use the subject headings from that title for further searches
- Limit by date to omit recent books from your results list
- Index resource: Nineteenth Century Short Title Catalogue (available via University Library Electronic Resources or Search Tools pages) is a catalog of all books published in English 1801-1870.
Remember that there will also be treatises that discuss legal history will also have been published more recently
Books & Treatises, Continued
Note: Making of Modern Law is a digitized collection of treatises all of which are also held by the Law Library in microform and many are also held in print.
Books & Treatises, Continued
Full-text resources, continued:
- LLMC Digital: in process of adding material - American law treatise collection currently limited to Military Law
- Google Books: full-text searchable but not printable - allows you to discover on-point books that then need to be located in a library, an online digital archive, or for purchase
Secondary Sources: Periodical Literature
Articles from law and non-law reviews and journals, newspapers, magazine, bar association journals. Do not use Lexcalibur or other catalogs - these will show holdings for journals, not help you find articles in them. Use indexes (below) or full-text databases (next slide).
Note: Index to Legal Periodicals and Index to Legal Periodical Literature both also available in paper in the Law Library Reference Collection. Nineteenth Century Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature (covering 1890-1922) is held by the University Library.
Note: Remeber that recent journal articles will also discuss legal history topics.
Periodical Literature, Continued
Full text historical periodical resources
Note: Choose "select multiple databases" to search all of the Proquest Historical Newspapers at one time.
The Bluebook is an important source for finding titles and coverage dates for:
- Statutory compilations
- Case Reporters, especially historical nominative reports (case reports titles commonly named after the court reporter or compiler, e.g. Dallas' Reports). See Finding Nominative Reports Using Lexcalibur for more information.
Primary Sources: Cases
Use the same techniques to find historical cases as are used for current caselaw: citations from secondary sources/annotated codes and using digests.
- United States Supreme Court Digest, 1754 to Date (Location: Federal Collection)
- Century Edition of the American Digest, 1658-1896 (Location: Reference Collection), Decennial Edition of the American Digest, 1897-1906 (Location: Reference Collection), and subsequent titles
American State Trials includes background and transcripted segments from criminal trials in the United States from the 1600s to the early 1900s (Location/Call Number: LC Coll/KF220 .A45 2000 (reprint))
Note: The digests noted above use the West Key-Number system.
Full Text Historical Case Resources:
- Lexis databases: "Federal Cases Before 1945, Combined Courts" (1792-1945), "US Supreme Court Lawyers' Edition Cases" (1790 - present), and state court databases generally go back to the earliest reported cases in the jurisdiction
- Westlaw databases: "All Federal and State Cases Before 1945" (1658-1944) and "State Case Law Before 1945" (1658-1944)
Note: These databases are large so remember to restrict your results by date and/or jurisdiction.
Primary Sources: Statutes
- Historical statutes can be located by the same method as recent statutes:
- Use citations from secondary sources or cases
- Use indexes and tables in the statute sets
- Annotated statute compilations are a good source of case annotations and historical background
- Statutes at Large: each volume contains an index and there is also the Index to the Federal Statutes, 1874-1931 (available in print in the Federal Collection)
- Both titles plus the Congressional Record and other legislative resources also in LLMC Digital.
- HeinOnline also has a Statutes at Large Library
State: At present you will need to use the Bluebook and Lexcalibur to locate print historical statutes sets in the Law Library. Many sets will eventually be available in LLMC Digital.
Other Full-text Legislative Databases
Note: For full-text searches in the Serial Set be sure to limit by date or make a narrowly tailored search because of the size of the database.
Additional Electronic Resources
Remember to try Google - for materials that are out of copyright, it is always possible that someone put them up on the web.
Locating Other Resources on Campus
- University Library System (all campus libraries other than Law and Kresge Business)
- Online catalog: Mirlyn
- Special Collections Library (7th floor of the Hatcher Graduate Library): pamphlet, manuscript, and other materials
- Some materials in Mirlyn, for many will need to use finding aids and local databases
- See http://www.lib.umich.edu/spec-coll/ for more information
Other Campus Resources, Continued
Other Campus Resources, Continued
- Clements Library: American History materials
- Strengths include African-American, Military, and Native-American History
- Regular collections included in Mirlyn, manuscript collection descriptions available on web site
- See http://www.clements.umich.edu/clempage.html for more information
For additional assistance
- Reference Desk assistance available 9 a.m. to midnight 7 days a week
- Professional librarians also available for individual appointments