Quick Facts

  • 1.85 million pages
  • 1,360  titles
  • 2,225 volumes
  • Cross-searchable with The Making of Modern Law: Primary Sources II, 1763-1970

GEOGRAPHY COVERED:

TIME PERIOD: 1620–1926

 

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Related Subject Areas
American History
Government
Law
Political Science

Related Areas of Interest
Legal History
Slavery/Abolition
U.S. Constitution
Victorian/Romantic Era

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.

It 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. 

Summary:  The Making of Modern Law: Primary Sources, 1620-1926 is a fully searchable digital archive of cases, statues and regulations in America’s history, including:  

  • Early state codes. A “code” is a compilation of statutes in current effect, arranged by subject.  All the states have codes for their legislation.  The Making of Modern Law: Primary Sources, 1620-1926 includes a comprehensive collection of the significant codes and code-like compilations from all states up to 1926.  The significant codes were determined by legal bibliographers at Yale University consulting guides to legal research in individual states, the bibliography Pimsleur's Checklists of Basic American Legal Publications, and the Yale Law Library and Library of Congress collections.  

    Unlike session laws, which are the laws of the states arranged by year of passage in chronological order, codes are the laws of the states that are currently in effect and that are arranged alphabetically by subject. Session laws are published every year; a complete collection of session laws would cover all years. Codes are periodic compilations of laws, issued typically about once every ten years; a complete collection of codes would not include one from every year.
  • Constitutional conventions and compilations.  The Making of Modern Law: Primary Sources, 1620-1926 includes 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.  The Making of Modern Law: Primary Sources, 1620-1926 includes a comprehensive collection of the significant constitutional conventions from all states up to 1926.  The significant conventions were determined by legal bibliographers at Yale University consulting the bibliography State Constitutional Conventions from Independence to the Completion of the Present Union, 1776-1959, by Cynthia E. Browne, and the Yale Law Library and Library of Congress collections. 
  • City charters.  The category “City charters” includes the texts of enacted and proposed charters and ordinances in American jurisdictions, together with official documents relating to them, and opinions of legal officers of cities.  No comprehensive collection of such materials is possible, since no library holds more than a selection of them.  The Making of Modern Law: Primary Sources, 1620-1926 captures the city charters up to 1926 in the Yale Law Library, which is one of the two foremost repositories of municipal legal publications.  The Yale charters present a broad geographical and chronological range and a fascinating mix of the largest and smallest of cities.      
  • 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. The Making of Modern Law: Primary Sources, 1620-1926 includes all the major American law dictionaries up to 1926, as determined by Fred Shapiro consulting 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.  This collection includes more than 60 titles that have been transcribed, edited, printed and indexed by six generations of scholars.  It includes the records and documents that detail the legislation and court proceedings marking the nation's tumultuous beginnings. Many of these valuable items have long since been lost or destroyed, making this an important resource for researchers. 

Significance:  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.  The Making of Modern Law: Primary Sources, 1620-1926 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.

Source:  The Making of Modern Law: Primary Sources, 1620-1926 was sourced chiefly from the Lillian Goldman Law Library at Yale University.

For more information, download a Product Fact Sheet [pdf, 756 KB]

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