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Legislation: England: historic legislation

Subjects: Law, Law - Foreign Law

Royal proclamations

English & UK legislation

Online resources

Holders of an Oxford SSO are well provided for with a number of routes to historic Westminster legislation as originally promulgated, provided the acts had indeed been subsequently printed. (To see the current state of legislation still in force, holders of an Oxford SSO should use either LexisLibrary or Westlaw Edge UK)

Early English legislation can be referred to by terms no longer used in this context, such as the Provisions of Oxford (1258).

On the free web the following might help (especially for public general acts)

The print collection in the LawBod

The LawBod has a very good (but not complete) of printed volumes for historic  Westminster Legislation (bills & acts: public, local, private and personal). For English & UK legislation the shelf marks are Cw UK 3 to Cw UK 30 on Level 1. However, some of the earliest  material is closed access - ask a member of staff for assistance.

Separate information is available for early legislation from Scotland and Ireland

Finding aids

Indexes to, and digests of, Westminster legislation are at Cw UK 70 - Cw UK 80 on Level 1.

On line tools to help searches include

Prior to 1963 acts were numbered according to the particular year of the individual king or queen's reign it had been passed. This is commonly referred to as the regnal year.

Pre 1797  Westminster acts were either Public or Private. 
In 1797 Public Acts were divided into two series : Public General Acts or Public Local and Personal Acts.

Public or Public General Acts

Acts that affect the whole population.

At the beginning of English legal history royal enactments were issued under a variety of names: assizes, constitutions, provisions and charters etc as well as statuta/statutes.
It was not until 1407 that the then monarch, Henry IV, accepted what we now consider the proper legislative procedure (separate debates and separate agreement from both Lords and Commons before royal assent.) However, the convention is that English statutes start with the confirmation of Magna Carta (1225).

If the legislation is still in force, then either LexisLibrary or Westlaw should be able to supply holders of an Oxford Single Sign On with the current, amended text.
Holders of an Oxford SSO can also turn to JustisOne for the text (as originally promulgated) of repealed acts from 1714 (Geo I) onwards.

The volumes called The Statutes of the Realm (1810-1827) are the first source you should look to if you need the text of legislation passed before 1714 (before George I). The LawBod asks that you consult an electronic version either in MOMW or HeinOnline (please go to tab called Sources of the full text). When there is a research need to consult the physical volumes, and you are in the library between 10 am and 4 prm Monday to Friday it would normally be possible for the volume (s) to be fetched for you within about 20mins. If you would not be able to visit the library during these times, please do contact us by email law.library@bodleian.ox.ac.uk in advance of your visit: it is normally possible to have them waiting at the Enquiry Desk for you.

If you are interested in the statutes passed during the Republic/Commonwealth/Interregnum they are gathered in separate volumes  Acts and ordinances of the Interregnum, 1642-1660. 

 ECCO and EEBO may provide holders of an Oxford Single Sign on with an electronic solution to lacunae.

The Law Bod has a strong collection of early/historic public general acts in print form. A lot are acccesible to readers on Level 1. However more are (because of age or fragility) kept in a closed access area. Members of staff are happy to advise- so please do ask.  Monday to Friday 10 am to 4pm it would normally be possible for a volume from the closed site to be fetched for you within about 20mins. If you would not be able to visit the library during these times, please do contact us by email law.library@bodleian.ox.ac.uk in advance of your visit: it is normally possible to have them waiting at the Enquiry Desk for you.

 

 

Pre 1797  Westminster acts were either Public or Private. 
In 1797 Public Acts were divided into two series : Public General Acts or Public Local and Personal Acts.

Local and Personal Acts 1798 onwards

The following is thanks to the House of Commons Information Office Factsheet L12.

Technically the series has undergone a number of name changes listed below. Today these niceties are largely irrelevant except when consulting precise library catalogues.

1798-1802 Public Local & Personal Act 
1803 - 1814 Local & Personal Acts to be judicially noticed
1815 - 1867 Local & Personal Acts declared public and to be judicially noticed
1867 - 1963 Provisional Order Confirmation Acts
1868             Local & Personal Acts
1869             Local & Private Acts
1870 on        Local Acts

The LawBod has a good but not comprehensive collection of this category of legislation. The volumes from I Geo IV (1820) are on open shelves at Cw UK 11 and Cw UK 12. on Level 1. Please ask a member of staff for help if you need earlier ones.

Finding aids

Chronological table of local legislation
v. 1. Local and personal acts 1797-1860 -- v. 2. Local and personal acts 1861-1890 -- v. 3. Local and personal acts 1891-1910 -- v. 4. Local and personal acts 1911-1994  Cw UK 080 L415b
and its 2000 supplement (including corrections to the first edition texts) Cw UK 080 L415c

Index to local and personal acts : consisting of classified lists of the local and personal and private acts and special orders and special procedure orders, 1801-1947 Cw UK 080 I38b

Chronological table of private and personal acts 1539-1997 Cw UK 080 L415c

Bills

"A Bill is a proposal for a new law, or a proposal to change an existing law that is presented for debate before Parliament." Definition from Parliament.UK website.

The LawBod have a few bills from the eighteenth century, definitely not a comprehensive collection.
Official Papers (on the Ground Floor of the Law Bod) have a very strong collection from the nineteenth century onwards.. 
 

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