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Faculty of Social Sciences


Finding Very Old Cases

It can often be difficult to trace very old cases (pre-1865) which are not covered in the modern law reporting series, but they may well have been landmark cases and are still relevant today. They are useful for tracing the development of case law in a particular area.  
Find out more about electronic and print resources available below.

Quick links:
A - Z list of law resources

Law resources home page



Most electronic databases are at present restricted to coverage of the modern law reporting series.  The list below will give you an idea of the date ranges covered by the various electronic resources available in the University's Learning Resource Centres.

You will need Athens authentication to access most library databases.  Use the Password Guide to find out more about Athens and other passwords.

Database Coverage details

English Reports

The online version of the English Reports is available to search on both the HeinOnline and Justis databases. The English Reports provide access to the most important early English cases from 1220-1865. 

Westlaw UK

Westlaw provides access to U.K. court decisions from the Law Reports series  (A.C., Q.B., Ch., Fam.) from 1865 onwards. 


Provides coverage of the Law Reports series (A.C., Q.B., Ch., Fam.) from 1865.

For older cases, it also gives access to The All England Law Reports Reprint. This comprises approximately 6,000 cases from 1558-1935. In general this useful source covers cases which have been referred to twice or more in the All England Law Reports since 1936.
LexisLibrary also provides access to The All England Reprint Extensions, a companion to The All England Reprints, containing 1,509 further important cases with head notes and judgments for the period 1861 until 1935.

Print resources

  • All England Reports Reprint
    This extremely useful source covers selected cases from 1558 to 1935 which have been referred to in the All England Reports and Halsbury's Laws Of England.  It is often the best place to start when looking for older case law.  You can use the reprint index volume to locate a case by the name of the parties if you do not have the full reprint case citation.    It is also available electronically via All England Cases and LexisLibrary.

  • Textbooks and casebooks
    Don't forget that authoritative textbooks and casebooks may be a good place to find out more about older case law in your subject area. For example Wylie's Irish Land Law would be a useful place to look for older Irish land law cases.  Go to the Finding Law Books page to find out more information about law books.

  • Offprints
    If the case is listed as part of your required reading and is not available from any of these sources, check to see if it has been added to the Offprint Collection by carrying out a search for the case in the library catalogue.  Ask for help from the library staff if you are unable to trace a particular case.

  • Document delivery service
    Individual students and researchers can make use of the Document Delivery Service to request a case which cannot be obtained from your campus library or Learning Resource Centre.

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Finding case law

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Last updated: 07/07/10
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