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English Law Research Guide

A guide to researching English law in the Tarlton Law Library.

Introduction

English case reporting can be divided into two primary periods: pre-1865 and since 1865.  This is because until 1865 there was no officially sanctioned reporter for English cases.  Commercial reporters published their own series, many of which consisted of only a few volumes, and which varied greatly in quality.

Our Legal History Research Guide will help you find earlier case reports, beginning in the Middle Ages.

Citing Cases

Note that citations to series of the Law Reports refer only to the series abbreviation, and do not indicate that the series is a part of the Law Reports.  Please consult the Bluebook, Table T.2, for further citation information.

English Case Law on the Web

Updating Cases

To update cases on Westlaw and get information similar to the information you would get in KeyCite, you have a couple of options.  You can search for the case in the UK-CASELOC database, or, if you're already viewing a case, click on the blue "History" link at the top or the "Links for" tab in the left column.  These features are only available for cases in reporters that are included in Westlaw databases. 

Lexis does not have a comparable feature to Shepard's for English cases.  You can, however, search in the case databases listed above using the name of the parties to find other cases that refer to your case.

A similar print publication to Shepard's for English cases is the Current Law Case Citator, which traces the subsequent history and treatment of cases since 1947 (note: Tarlton has 1947-2002).  For cases prior to 1947, use The Digest.

For further detail on using print citators, see Stephen E. Young, Shepardizing English Law, 90 Law Libr. J. 209 (1998).

Law Reports

In 1865, the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting was formed and tasked with producing a quasi-official version of English case reports, the Law Reports.  There were originally eleven series of the law reports, but due to court reorganization there are now four series: Appeal Cases, Queen's Bench Division, Chancery Division and Family Division. 

The four current series of the Law Reports are:

  • Appeal Cases -- includes the reports from the House of Lords, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (a special court which prepares advisory opinions for the Queen), and Peerage Cases.
  • Queen's Bench Division -- contains the cases decided in the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court of Justice and appeals from there to the Court of Appeal, and cases in the criminal division of the Court of Appeal. [note: this set is called the King's Bench Division when a king holds the throne of England]
  • Chancery Division -- contains cases from the chancery courts and on appeal from chancery courts.  The Chancery Division of the High Court of Justice handles business and property cases, including bankruptcy and intellectual property cases.
  • Family Division -- contains cases from the Family Division of the High Court of Justice and cases on appeal from those courts.

Below you will find a simple chart showing the evolution of the Law Reports from an eleven series set to a four series set.

Table showing evolution of the Law Reports

For a more detailed look at the evolution of the Law Reports, along with links to the catalog records of Tarlton's holdings, please see the PDF file linked below.

Additional Case Reporters

Weekly Law Reports (1953-present) -- also published by the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting, Weekly Law Reports are a companion series to the Law Reports, started in 1953.  Published weekly 46 times a year, Weekly Law Reports have cases from the superior and appellate courts, and could be considered as the advance sheets for the Law Reports.  Each year is divided into 3 volumes: volume 1 has cases that do not warrant inclusion in the Law Reports, while volumes 2 and 3 have cases that will later be published in the Law Reports.

All England Law Reports (1936-46; 1947; 1948-present) -- this set is a commercially produced alternative to the "official" Law Reports.  It is an annotated set, with cross-references to other All England cases and Legislation.  Case reports include headnotes and keywords, and cover the House of Lords, both divisions of the Court of Appeal, and all divisions of the High Court of Justice. 

In addition to the general series of law reports, there are commercially published reporters covering cases in a specific area. Some examples are:

English Reports (1571-1865) -- Around 1570, collections of law reports published privately by individuals began to appear.  These reports were usually referred to by the name of the reporter or compiler, and for that reason are known collectively as nominate reports.  Most of the nominate reports are found reprinted in the English Reports.

English Cases on Lexis and Westlaw

Lexis

  • You can find the Law Reports of England and Wales database by entering ENGGEN;ICLR into the "Search by Dot Command" interface
  • You can also navigate to the Law Reports of England and Wales database using the Find a Source tab; once you've chosen the tab, use Option 1 and type in "Law Reports of England and Wales"
  • Many English cases from 1558 to the present, along with selected unreported transcripts of decisions in the major English courts since January 1, 1980, are available in the England and Wales Reported and Unreported Cases database (ENGGEN;CASES)

Westlaw

  • ALL-RPTS database has law reports since 1865 from the UK, the European Union, other European countries, and other countries worldwide. Includes materials from the Law Reports series published by the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for England and Wales, Lloyd's Law Reports published by LLP Reference Publishing, the Scottish Council of Law Reporting, and the Sweet & Maxwell series of law reports on Westlaw.
  • UK-RPTS-ALL contains English reports from 1865-present; also available in PDF
  • WLR-RPTS contains the Weekly Law Reports from 1953-present; also available in PDF.  Includes cases heard in the House of Lords, Privy Council, Court of Appeal, and also in the European Court of Justice.
  • UKL-RPTS contains transcripts of proceedings in the Court of Appeal (Civil and Criminal Divisions), the High Court of Justice (Queen's Bench Division, including Crown Office List, Commercial Court and Companies Court, and Chancery Division), and other selected courts in England and Wales (e.g., county courts) in which decisions, judgments, and orders are delivered. Coverage begins in 1999.