Skip to main content

Legal history: England & common law tradition: Legal history

Subjects: History - British, Law

Using this guide

Navigate through this guide by clicking on the pertinent tab in the range you can see above this box (below the main title of this guide).

Separate guides exist which may help you further in this and related studies.

History of the common law legal tradition: quick start

The Law Bod is Oxford University's principal repository of printed sources for the history of the laws of England, and the past and present members of the United Kingdom.
Manuscripts and copies of incunabula - regardless of subject content - however are in the care of the Bodleian Special Collections in the Weston Library.

The Law Bod also has the principal collection for legal history research for those countries which are part of the common law tradition of law as a result of colonial history: the current members of the Commonwealth and the United States.

Below are some key resources for study & research in this area: please use other pages in this guide to discover more.

Major eresources

Key introduction in print

For an introduction to the genesis and distinguishing features of the original common law of England (and its companion casebook)

Word of warning using SOLO subject searches

Great Britain is the default for the landmass of the British Isles so

 Justices of the peace -- Great Britain may well include works on the JPs pre 1707 as well as after 1801!

However it is worth trying England as well ...

Legal Hist

On Floor 2 is the collection of year-books, Selden Society publications, textbooks and monographs dealing with the history of the common law, or the Anglo-American legal tradition as it sometimes called. The shelf mark begins Legal Hist.


Law Library: Reserve Collection


When you search SOLO for texts you may find - especially if the text is recommended on an undergrad reading list - that the location is shown as "Law Library Reserve Collection."  Armed with your University Card/Reader's Ticket and desk number, please ask for these books at the Reserve Collection desk in the Reading Room and they will be issued to you for use in the Library.

Key introduction in print

For an introduction to the genesis and distinguishing features of the original common law of England (and its companion casebook)

Other Bodleian Libraries

The nature of legal history studies may mean that searches in SOLO show that one or more of the Bodleian Reading Rooms also have useful titles.
The Bodleian History & History Faculty Library are about 15 minutes stroll from the LawBod, back towards the city centre in the Radcliffe Camera, the Gladstone Link and the Upper Reading Room of the central/old Bod.
The Vere Harmsworth Library (USA Collection) is a 15 minute walk to the north.
The English Faculty & Social Science Libraries are our immediate neighbours.

Codrington Library, All Souls College
Looks favourably on applications to use its collections for advanced legal historical research

You may find these guides written by the subject specialists of the above named collections useful

Loading ...

Guide author

Elizabeth Wells's picture
Elizabeth Wells
Bodleian Law Library
St Cross Building
Manor Road
01865 271462