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Legal history: England & common law tradition: Books

Legal History Research Methods

Essential first reading


This guide has adopted the term Commentary to works on the Anglo-American legal tradition written since the late (19th.
In the Law Bod these are shelved in Legal Hist.

Some key general works, not limited to specific topics - though perhaps to specific periods

Baker, Introduction to English Legal History Legal Hist B167a5

Holdsworth, History of English Law (17v, 1903-1972) Legal Hist H728e

Milsom Historical foundations of the common law (2nd ed., 1981) Legal Hist M661a2

Concise history of the common law (5th ed., 1956) Legal Hist P733a5

Simpson, Legal theory and legal history: essays in the common law (1987) Legal Hist S613c

Cornish & Clark, Law and society in England 1750-1950 (1989) Legal Hist C818.8a

Manchester, A modern legal history of England and Wales 1750-1950 (1980) Legal Hist M268a


  The multi-volume Oxford History of the Laws of England is a work in progress (any published volumes are at Legal Hist O98q ; some of them are also available electronically via OSO Oxford Scholarship Online), and should become the classic record of late 20th and early 21st century understanding of English legal history.

Journal articles, of course, are also a major vehicle for publication of recent research and new interpretations of the old. Introductions to Selden Society volumes can also provide useful introductions to particular historic periods and/or styles of legal literature.

Sources for legal history

Further steps in understanding what they are ... some of these have become classics in their own right.


For the most recent edition of his Commentaries see

Holders of an Oxford SSO can read the volumes of the OU edition of Blackstone via the links below: