Primary Source Databases/Web Archives

Please note: Within each category, the listings below are placed in rough chronological order.

Before 1600

  • Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Legal Texts
    Large collection of translated sources and materials in the legal history of the ancient world, weighted toward the Mediterranean and the Near East, but including India, Japan, and China, and including links to other online primary sources archives
  • Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Medieval Legal History, Paul Halsall, Fordham University
    Large collection of translated sources and materials in European legal history of the medieval period, including links to other online primary sources archives.
  • Bracton Online, Harvard Law School Library
    Full, searchable text of Bracton On the Laws and Customs of England in both English and Latin. Text can be viewed with English and Latin side-by-side, and includes footnotes in both languages.
  • The Anglo-American Legal Tradition: Documents from Medieval and Early Modern England from the National Archives in London, O’Quinn Law Library, University of Houston
    This site contains hundreds of digital images of various early English legal documents from the 13th to 17th centuries.
  • English Law Yearbooks, 1268-1535, David Seipp, Boston University
    An “index and paraphrase” of England’s main source for medieval legal proceedings, with 20,000 entries, and 4,000 entries from 1399 onward.
  • The Parliament rolls of Medieval England—1275-1504
    Searchable database of all parliamentary records from the medieval period.
  • Crime and Punishment, The National Archives (UK)
    Case studies of crime, strategies of crime prevention, and punishment from the thirteenth century to the present, with both selected primary sources and teaching materials.
  • Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), University of Cambridge Law School
    Collection of images of primary sources in copyright history in Britain, France, Italy, Spain, German-speaking countries, and the United States. Most documents annotated with commentary and related bibliography of primary and secondary texts.
  • Early English Books Online, 1473-1800, Chadwyck-Healy
    Access to almost all English legal treatises and pamphlets about law from this period; requires institutional access.
  • Rare Book Collection, Yale Law Library
    Over 50,000 volumes, including the Blackstone Collection, collections in Anglo-American law, Roman and canon law, illustrated manuscripts, and other, more specialized collections. The law library maintains a Flickr page of digitized images from the collection, along with a “Rare Books Blog.”

Post-1600, Britain and British Empire

  • Crime and Punishment, The National Archives (UK)
    Case studies of crime, strategies of crime prevention, and punishment from the thirteenth century to the present, with both selected primary sources and teaching materials.
  • Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), University of Cambridge Law School
    Collection of images of primary sources in copyright history in Britain, France, Italy, Spain, German-speaking countries, and the United States. Most documents annotated with commentary and related bibliography of primary and secondary texts.
  • Early English Books Online, 1473-1800, Chadwyck-Healy
    Access to almost all English legal treatises and pamphlets about law from this period; requires institutional access.
  • Rare Book Collection, Yale Law Library
    Over 50,000 volumes, including the Blackstone Collection, collections in Anglo-American law, Roman and canon law, illustrated manuscripts, and other, more specialized collections. The law library maintains a Flickr page of digitized images from the collection, along with a “Rare Books Blog.”
  • Law Library Microform Consortium Digital Collections
    This primary source database contains some of the LLMC’s massive microform collection in an online format. Material online includes full text of many American and English legal reporters and much more; requires institutional access.
  • Internet Modern History Sourcebook: Constitutional States, Paul Halsall, Fordham University
    Collection of documents on early modern European constitutionalism, focusing on Britain.
  • The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 1674-1834, Old Bailey Online.
    Essentially complete and searchable records of over 100,000 trials in this pivotal London court.
  • Dying Speeches and Bloody Murders: Crime Broadsides, Harvard Law School
    Digital collection of over 500 broadsides of “Dying Speeches,” ephemeral publications sold to audiences at public executions in Britain. Spans the years 1707 to 1891, with many of the broadsides depicting cases that were tried at the Old Bailey.
  • The Avalon Project, Yale Law School
    Extensive and searchable collection of documents in legal and diplomatic history, with a particular focus on England and the United States from the 17th through the 21st century
  • Decisions of the Superior Courts of New South Wales, 1788-1899 Macquarie University Law School
    Subject searchable databases of cases and decisions from New South Wales, which are drawn from newspaper reports and manuscript sources.
  • Colonial Case Law, Macquarie Univ. Law School, Bruce Kercher
    An ongoing project to collect and digitize cases from British colonial courts, offering comparative perspective on the legal history of the British Empire. Bias towards cases in New Zealand and Tasmania, with links to non-Macquarie sources. Links divided by colony.
  • The Making of Modern Law: Legal Treatises 1800-1926, Thompson Gale Resources
    Searchable subscription database of 22,000 legal treatises on American and British law.
  • Slave Registers of former British Colonial Dependencies, 1812-1834, Ancestry.co.uk.
    Genealogical site with data from the British national archives (Office of Registry of Colonial Slaves and Slave Compensation Commission: Records T71/553-564). For now, contains records on the enslaved and their owners in 1834 Barbados.
  • British and Irish Legal Information Institute.
    Full text of all British and Irish legal reports after 1996; provides numerous links to analogous legal information institutes around the world—with a particular emphasis on up to date contemporary case law.

Post-1600, British North America, the United States, and Canada

  • Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), University of Cambridge Law School
    Collection of images of primary sources in copyright history in Britain, France, Italy, Spain, German-speaking countries, and the United States. Most documents annotated with commentary and related bibliography of primary and secondary texts.
  • Law Library Microform Consortium Digital Collections
    This primary source database contains some of the LLMC’s massive microform collection in an online format. Material online includes full text of many American and English legal reporters and much more; requires institutional access.
  • Rare Book Collection, Yale Law Library
    Over 50,000 volumes, including the Blackstone Collection, collections in Anglo-American law, Roman and canon law, illustrated manuscripts, and other, more specialized collections. The law library maintains a Flickr page of digitized images from the collection, along with a “Rare Books Blog.”
  • Online Library of Liberty, The Liberty Fund
    Full text access to several hundred classic texts of legal theory and constitutionalism, concentrated in the areas of early modern international law and the founding of the American Constitution.
  • The Avalon Project, Yale Law School
    Extensive and searchable collection of documents in legal and diplomatic history, with a particular focus on England and the United States from the 17th through the 21st century
  • Archives of Maryland Online, State of Maryland.
    Digitized versions of over 80 volumes of state legal records, concentrated in the colonial and early national periods, but extending well into the twentieth century.
  • Colonial Connecticut Records, 1636-1776, University of Connecticut
    Series of links (divided by year) to colonial Connecticut court records, hosted on archive.org.
  • Salem Witchcraft Trials, University of Virginia
    Rich digital collection centered on the Salem trials of 1692, including full search transcriptions of court records. Also includes digitized Essex County Court Records from 1636 to 1686.
  • Famous Trials in American History, Douglas Linder, UM-KC School of Law
    Extensive annotated primary source records of 56 famous American trials, from the 17th century to the present.
  • Chancery Records Index, Library of Virginia
    Over 200,000 digitized chancery court records from Virginia, providing insight into the lives of Virginians from the 18th century to the First World War; searchable by name, county or year.
  • Slaves and the Courts 1740-1860, The Library of Congress
    Digitized print material relating to law and slavery including “...an assortment of trials and cases, reports, arguments, accounts, examinations of cases and decisions, proceedings, journals, a letter, and other works of historical importance.”
  • Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation, The Library of Congress
    A voluminous, searchable collection of documents relating to constitutional, legislative, and administrative history of the federal government up to 1875, including: the published records of the Continental Congress; Farrand’s and Elliot’s Debates of the Constitutional Convention; Journals of the House and Senate until 1873; compilations of all laws passed by Congress; records of Congressional Debates until 1875, with additional releases planned; the U.S. Serial Set and American State Papers, which together comprise House and Senate reports, and numerous Executive reports to Congress.
  • John Jay Papers, Columbia University
    Thousands of digitized documents (mostly letters) from the papers of John Jay -- New York lawyer, politician, Governor, diplomat, and Supreme Court Justice.
  • The Pennsylvania Constitution Web Site, Duquesne University
    This site has the text of all five Pennsylvania state constitutions (1776, 1790, 1838, 1874, 1968), along with amendments, constitutional convention debates, and constitutional opinions from Attorneys-General.
  • History of the Federal Judiciary, Federal Judicial Center
    Offers a wealth of background information about the history of the U. S. federal courts, including brief overviews of institutional evolution for particular courts, biographies of federal judges, and some primary source materials, chiefly involving a selected set of famous American trials, and the text of pivotal judicial legislation.
  • The Making of Modern Law: Legal Treatises 1800-1926, Thompson Gale Resources
    Searchable subscription database of 22,000 legal treatises on American and British law.
  • Marriage, Women, and the Law, 1815-1914, Research Libraries Group
    Digital collection of primary and secondary sources on legal history of marriage, drawing on collections from seven libraries and archives in the U.S. and the U.K. (No longer online—historical record of project only...see links below)
  • Studies in Scarlet: Marriage & Sexuality in the U.S. and U.K., 1815-1914, Harvard Libraries
    Once part of a larger research initiative titled "Marriage, Women, and the Law, 1815-1914," this collection is now independently available online. Includes over 400 trial narratives from the Harvard Law School Library, mostly from American, British, and Irish cases. Includes trials from notable historical figures as well as accounts of ordinary people.
  • Women, Marriage and the Law, University of North Carolina Digital Collections
    North Carolina’s contribution to the Research Libraries Group initiative. Strongest in the antebellum and colonial periods; readily searchable by time period, subject, and location.
  • Nineteenth-Century Texas Law Online, 1822-1897 University of North Texas
    Digitized version of Gammel’s The Laws of Texas, including all acts of the Texas Legislature, many documents concerning Texas constitutional conventions, and administrative papers.
  • Coles County Legal History Project, Eastern Illinois University
    An ongoing project to make nineteenth-century legal records from Eastern Illinois counties available on the web, mostly through a transcribed, searchable database. The cases include both civil and criminal proceedings, from 1830 to 1899. To date, most entries in the databases include only extensive indexes of the actual records, which come from sixteen counties and are housed at the EIU Library.
  • Exploring Amistad, Mystic Seaport
    Digital archive of documents concerning the Amistad slave revolt, including many related to the legal proceedings that the revolt generated.
  • Evidence from the Haymarket Affair, 1886-1887, Library of Congress
    Full transcript of the Haymarket Trial of Chicago labor radicals, with additional contextual sources.
  • American Radicalism Collection, Michigan State University
    A collection of online documents, images, and pamphlets as well as references to offline sources about various organizations, including the Ku Klux Klan, the American Communist party, and the Black Panther Party.
  • Duluth Lynchings, 1920, Minnesota Historical Society
    Repository of legal and other documents surrounding the lynching of several black men in Duluth, Minnesota.
  • Nuremberg Trials Project, Harvard Law School Library
    Searchable database of thousands of documents concerning the Nuremberg trials of war criminals after World War II.
  • Joseph Berry Keenan Digital Collection, Harvard Law School Library
    Complete digitized correspondence of Joseph Berry Keenan, lead prosecutor in the Japanese War Crimes Trial; includes letters from Japanese and American citizens expressing their opinions about the proceedings.
  • Oyez Oyez Oyez, United States Supreme Court.
    Online sound recordings of oral arguments before the US Supreme Court 1955-present.
  • Historical Publications of the United States Commission on Civil Rights, Thurgood Marshall Law Library, University of Maryland
    Online access to scores of publications by the USCCR.
  • Canadian Oral History Programme, the Osgoode Society
    Ongoing oral history project captures the memories of Canadian jurists and lawyers. To date, the Osgoode Society has interview transcripts for over 600 people.
  • New Hampshire Bar Legal History Project, New Hampshire Bar Foundation
    Over 50 oral history interviews with attorneys from the state, addressing various dimensions of post-World War II legal history.
  • The Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, University of California-San Francisco
    Searchable database of 7 million documents produced in discovery as a result of lawsuits brought against the tobacco industry. Site links to numerous other web repositories of documents related to tobacco litigation.
  • Meta-Index for U.S. Legal Research, Georgia State University Law School
    One-stop searching for recent federal judicial, administrative, and legislative records.

Post-1600 Continental Europe

  • Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), University of Cambridge Law School
    Collection of images of primary sources in copyright history in Britain, France, Italy, Spain, German-speaking countries, and the United States. Most documents annotated with commentary and related bibliography of primary and secondary texts.
  • Nuremberg Trials Project, Harvard Law School Library
    Searchable database of thousands of documents concerning the Nuremberg trials of war criminals after World War II.
  • German Law Archive
    Extensive, searchable database of German statutes and judicial opinions, translated into English, primarily from the post-World War II era.
  • Rare Book Collection, Yale Law Library
    Over 50,000 volumes, including the Blackstone Collection, collections in Anglo-American law, Roman and canon law, illustrated manuscripts, and other, more specialized collections. The law library maintains a Flickr page of digitized images from the collection, along with a “Rare Books Blog.”

Post-1600, Asia, Africa, and Islamic World

  • Internet Islamic History Sourcebook, Paul Halsall, Fordham University
    Large collection of translated sources and materials on Islamic history. Some legal texts relating to administration of the Ottoman Empire. More substantial collection of international law documents concerning relations of the Ottoman Empire, or the North African states, to the West.
  • Joseph Berry Keenan Digital Collection, Harvard Law School Library
    Complete digitized correspondence of Joseph Berry Keenan, lead prosecutor in the Japanese War Crimes Trial; includes letters from Japanese and American citizens expressing their opinions about the proceedings.
  • South African Freedom Project, 1950-1994, Digital Imaging Project, University of Kwazulu-Natal
    Digital Collection of 44 anti-Apartheid journals, produced by a wide range of organizations, including black political organizations, the Black Sash, trade unions, student associations, and religious groups. Searchable by word within the full text, with extensive coverage of the Apartheid state’s legal machinery for imposing racial inequality and quashing dissent, the legal tactics and strategies of anti-Apartheid activists, and other aspects of twentieth-century South African legal history.
  • Traces of Truth: Documents Relating to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, University of the Witwatersrand
    Archive of selected documents from South Africa’s TRC.
  • African International Courts and Tribunals, Project on International Courts and Tribunals
    Repository of treaties, conventions, and case law emerging from post-colonial international judicial forums in Africa.  In addition to selected primary source materials, includes concise overviews of the various tribunals now in operation, including their origins, along with links to the official sites of the tribunals, and bibliographies.

Post-1945 International Law

  • Project on International Courts and Tribunals
    Repository of treaties, conventions, and case law, dating from the 1990s, relating to a host of international judicial forums, including the International Criminal Court, the International Court of Justice, the World Trade Organization, and the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes. In addition to selected primary source materials, includes concise historical overviews of the various tribunals now in operation, along with links to the official sites of the tribunals, and bibliographies.