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English Law Research Guide

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


English statutes have never been officially codified.  However, some publishers have released unofficial publications that organize those statutes currently in force by subject. Therefore, English statutes can be found in both chronological compilations and in subject compilations of statutes in force.  There is no English counterpart to the U.S. Code; English statutes in force are not assigned title and section numbers.  Instead, statutes are identified by their original title and date of enactment.

Guides to finding English law compiled chronologically and by subject are linked above, or can be accessed using the drop-down menu on the Primary Legislation tab.  Information on updating legislation can be found on the left side of the Statutes in Force page.

General Information

This guide contains a selective list of sources for English statutes. For a more detailed listing, see Sweet & Maxwell's Guide to Law Reports and Statutes, KD 51 S9 1959 (located in Closed Stacks; request at the Circulation Desk).  This resource provides abbreviations for all of the reporters, a table of regnal years of the sovereigns, and an alphabetical listing of the law reports of England, Ireland, and Scotland (with information about the period of publication).

English Statute Finding Aids

These volumes are in temporary storage and are able to be requested by clicking on the link.

Interpreting English Statute Citations

Full English statutory citations consist of the statute's name (which may include a year), regnal year, chapter, and section.  The practice of assigning a regnal year citation to Acts of Parliament continued until 1963.  Later statute citations omit the regnal year.

Example:  Statute of Westminster, 1931, 22 & 23 Geo. 5 c. 4 (Eng.)
Example:  Scotland Act 1998, c. 46 (Eng.)

For further information on British statutory citation, see How to Cite Legal Authorities by Derek French, K 89 F74 1996

Interpreting the Regnal Year:

Early English statutes are cited by regnal year; they do not reference the calendar year. Regnal years include the session of Parliament covered by the nth year of a monarch's reign, an abbreviation of the monarch's name, and the numerical designation of the monarch in Arabic numerals.  For example, 2 Edw. 3, ch. 3 refers to the 3rd act passed in the 2nd year of the reign of King Edward III which, according to the regnal year chart, was in the year 1328.

Note: not all monarchs will have an Arabic numeral designation.  Queen Anne, for example, is the only Queen Anne to date. "10 Anne" indicates the 10th year of the reign of Queen Anne.  The numeral designation is also omitted for the first monarch to rule under a particular name - e.g., Elizabeth I would be cited as: 13 Eliz.

For a list that correlates abbreviations with monarchs' names, see Table T.2 in the Bluebook, under United Kingdom -- Statutes (p. 321 in the 18th ed. of the Bluebook).

Calculating Regnal Years:

The regnal year runs from the date of the monarch's accession to the throne and indicates the session of Parliament held during the nth year of the monarch's reign.  You can find the exact dates of monarchs' reigns and a conversion of regnal years to calendar years using this chart of regnal years.

Because Parliamentary sessions can cover more than one regnal year, you may see a statute that has two regnal years in its citation, as shown at the top of this box.  This means that it may be impossible to determine, from the citation alone, in which year a piece of legislation passed.

UK Parliament Tour - Bills and Voting

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