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Legal History Research: Home

Resources for researching Australian legal history

Contents of this guide

This guide has been divided into current commentary sources on Australian and English legal history and resources that contain historical primary sources.

Modern Commentary

Historical sources

Legal History Blogs

Legal History - Australia and the Common Law Tradition

Legal history: The history of law and legal institutions

This research guide covers the resources available for Australian and UK legal history research.

The Australian legal system shares much of its history with the English legal system. Both trace their origins back in an unbroken line over almost 1000 years to the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. While the Australian legal system branched off with the arrival of the first British settlers in Sydney Cove in January 1788, English institutions continue to exert an important influence. Australian law still shares legal principles and doctrines with England and other countries of the Commonwealth of Nations which practise the common law. English thinking about law continues to exert a powerful influence on Australian lawyers although the common law as we know it is a product of the Australian experience. If the legal system of 18th century England was Australia's birthright, the common law of Australia in the 21st century is Australia's responsibility to maintain.

Source: Laying Down the Law / Cook et al (2015) p.35

Legal History Societies & Collections

Legal History

The Lawyer's Office by Marinus van Reymerswaele

Source: New Orleans Museum of Art

Further research

The Bodliean Library has prepared a research guide on English Legal History, which lists an extensive range of resources.

The Georgetown Law School Library's Guide to Legal History Databases includes annotations for numerous important titles.

The University of Melbourne History research guide provides information on general historical research.

The National Archives Research Guides provide information on how to find records held by the UK National Archives.