Explore American legal history through four centuries of primary sources from cities and states.
The Making of Modern Law: Primary Sources, 1620-1926 contains a virtual goldmine of information for researchers of American legal history -- a fully searchable digital archive of the published records of the American colonies, documents published by state constitutional conventions, state codes, city charters, law dictionaries, digests, and more. The collection brings together in one place many of the important documents that have been lost, destroyed, or previously inaccessible to researchers of American legal history around the world.
This collection complements The Making of Modern Law: Legal Treatises, 1800-1926 and is ideal for law libraries and collections serving students and scholars of American history. The term "primary sources" is used not in the historian's sense of a manuscript, letter, or diary, but rather in the legal sense of a case, statute, or regulation. This collection is a digital archive of cases, statutes and regulations in America's history, including:
Early state codes: Significant codes and code-like compilations from all states up to 1926 determined by legal bibliographers at Yale University.
Constitutional conventions and compilations: Reports, journals, proceedings, and debates published by conventions enacting or amending state constitutions. It also includes supplementary documents published by the conventions, including manuals, rules of order, and information for use of delegates. This collection includes the significant (as determined by legal bibliographers at Yale University) constitutional conventions from all states up to 1926.
City charters: The texts of enacted and proposed charters and ordinances in American jurisdictions, official documents relating to them, and opinions of legal officers of cities. This collection captures the city charters up to 1926 in the Yale Law Library. The Yale charters present a broad geographical and chronological range.
Law dictionaries: Legal dictionaries are surprisingly important, and older ones are consulted by researchers investigating the history of legal concepts or interpreting the meaning of older documents such as the Constitution of the United States. This collection includes all the major American law dictionaries up to 1926, as determined by Fred Shapiro in consultation with the Yale Law Library and Library of Congress collections and his own knowledge of the literature.
Digests: Indexes to reported cases, arranged by subject.
Published records of the American colonies: More than sixty titles, including the records and documents that detail the legislation and court proceedings marking the nation's beginnings. Many of these valuable items have long since been lost or destroyed.
Platform Features & Tools
Researchers can see the frequency of search terms within sets of content to begin identifying central themes and assessing how individuals, events, and ideas interact and develop over time.
By grouping commonly occurring themes, this tool reveals hidden connections within search terms—helping to shape research by integrating diverse content with relevant information.
Search across the content of complementary primary source products in one intuitive environment, enabling innovative new research connections.