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Legal History Research: Legislation

Resources for researching Australian legal history

Tracing UK Acts of Parliament

A useful factsheet on tracing UK Acts of Parliament has been produced by the House of Commons Information Office - Tracing an Act of Parliament

Regnal years

Regnal Years

Prior to 1963, Acts of Parliament were numbered using the year of the sovereign’s reign in which the Act was passed, a system known as regnal years. Under the regnal year system, an Act passed early in a parliamentary session has a citation such as 5 Edw. 7, c. 9, for the ninth chapter in the session that commenced in the fifth year of the reign of King Edward 7th. It was common for a session to extend into a second regnal year, giving rise to a citation such as 8 & 9 Geo. 6, c. 4.

For a comparison table, see this FAQ from Justis or page 122 in How to Cite Legal Authorities / French (1996).

UK legislation databases

Other databases that have versions of historical statutes and regulations include the following:

Australian historical legislation

Historical acts, bills and hansard for the Commonwealth and the States can be accessed through the following sources:

Commonwealth

New South Wales

  • Acts of Parliament 1824 - 1900 (AustLII), 1838 - current (hard copy in the Law Library)
  • Hansard (Legislative Council) 1824 - current (NSW Parliament), 1901 - current (hard copy in the Law Library)
  • Hansard (Legislative Assembly) 1973 - current (NSW Parliament), 1901 - current (hard copy in the Law Library)
  • Comprehensive index to all parliamentary documents online (NSW Parliament)
  • Government Gazette 1967 - 1992 (hard copy in the Law Library)

Queensland

South Australia

  • Acts of Parliament 1837 - 1900 (AustLII), 1848 - current (hard copy in the Law Library)
  • Acts of the Parliament of South Australia 1837 - 2002 (Flinders University)
  • Acts of Parliament 1848 - current (hard copy in the Law Library)
  • Hansard 1957 - current (hard copy in the Law Library)

Tasmania

Victoria

Western Australia

 Other resources

Australasian Colonial Legal History Library includes databases of historical legislation from the 1800s to 1900 available on AustLII.

Ozcase Queensland Historical Legal Collection also contains commencement legislation (1793-1867), applicable land legislation (1833-1910), Queensland criminal code, public acts and local personal and private acts (1828-1936).

Fighting Words: A Review of Sedition Laws in Australia (ALRC Report 104) is an Australian Law Reform Commission Report and contains a section on the origins and history of sedition laws in England and Australia.

More information about Australian legislation can be found on the Australian Cases, Legislation and Law Reform research guide.

 

UK historical legislation

Ancient laws (pre-1200s)

Several compilations of pre-1200 legislation exist and many can be found through the library catalogue:

 

Laws from 1235 onwards

Statutes of the Realm is the most authoritative sources for older UK legislation.

  • Statutes of the Realm (HeinOnline) - volumes 1-11, 1235-1713 (UniMelb access).
  • Statutes of the Realm (British History Online) - the full text of Statutes passed into law by the two Houses of Parliament, volumes 5-7, 1628-1701 (Pubilic access).
  • Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum (British History Online) - the full text of legislation passed into law during the Interregnum, 1642-1660 (Public access). Also available in hard copy in the Law Library.
  • legislation.gov.uk contains an incomplete collection of acts and statutory instruments from 1267-1990. Where available, links are provided to 'as enacted' and 'revised' versions (Public access).
  • Justis contains full text of all Acts of Parliament in England, Wales and Scotland from 1235 to present. The data is sourced from Ruffhead's Statutes at Large up to 1866 and then from HMSO. All Acts appear as enacted, with links to amended and amending legislation (UniMelb access).
  • Statutes at Large (the unauthorised compilation) is also available through the Eighteneeth Century Collections Online on Gale (UniMelb access).
  • Westlaw UK contains statutes (from 1267) and statutory instruments (from 1948). The legislation is reproduced in 'revised' form (UniMelb access).

Hansard

Hansard is the record of parliamentary debates.

House of Commons and House of Lords Hansard 1803-2005 are available through the UK Parliament. Hansard can be browsed by date, member, constituencies and offices.

Indexes of UK legislation

Chronological Table of the Statutes

This online version of the Local Act Table lists in their chronological sequence all those Acts passed by the Parliaments at Westminster between 1797 and the end of 2008 which have come to be generally described as Local Acts, and the Orders confirmed by local Provisional Order Confirmation Acts in the sequence in which they are scheduled to their confirming Acts.

This Table lists in their chronological sequence the series of Private and Personal Acts passed by the Parliaments at Westminster between 1539 and the end of 2008.

Note: for more information on the definitions of local, private and personal acts, see the introduction to each table

The House of Commons Journal and the House of Lords Journal

The House of Commons Journal is the corrected, archive edition of Votes and Proceedings, the formal record of House of Commons business for a given day.

The House of Lords Journal is the corrected, archive edition of Minutes of Proceedings, the formal record of House of Lords business for a given day.

Raithby's Index

This compliation is a useful index to the Statutes from Magna Carta to 1809. It is available through Open Library.