Historical Sources

While the practice of law emphasizes finding the most current information possible, many scholars and even practitioners in some cases need access to historical legal and scholarly materials that precede what is typically available on current law sources such as Lexis and Westlaw. The Pritzker Legal Research Center has an outstanding collection of historical works, including many treatises, journals, cases, and statutory compilations, in some cases dating back to the colonial era (and even earlier for some British materials). However, the library also subscribes to many online resources that may make it possible to find extremely important historical records, including legal and other types of materials, frequently in digitized formats. Even if your research is not primarily historical, you may find that historical materials such as newspaper accounts will add depth to your treatment of legal developments.

BOOKS, and OTHER WORKS (including treatises)

The Law Library holds many early editions of famous treatises and other books, in print, in electronic form, or on microfilm. If you have a particular text and edition in mind, start with the library catalog NUcat, which will indicate where the text can be found, regardless of format. Frequently old treatises are housed in the Rare Book Room, and NUcat will indicate this. Speak to a reference librarian if you need access to such a work. In addition, the library collects facsimiles and reprints of many important early treatise editions, including Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England (MON KD 660 .B52 2002), Story's Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States (MON KF 4541 .S7 1987), and Kent's Commentaries on American Law (MON KF 385 .K433 1826a), which are available in open stacks. The Law Library now subscribes to several databases listed on this page that provide images and full-text searching of many important legal works and nonlegal texts. In many cases, NUcat will provide a direct link to a work located in one of these databases.

To locate historical works contained in other libraries, consult WorldCat, which includes records from thousands of U.S. and foreign libraries. While some historical works might be too delicate to borrow, the Law Library will attempt to obtain texts by interlibrary loan.

  • 19th Century Masterfile Available from anywhere to all members of the Northwestern University community - (Indexes to Books and Articles). Provides online access to a large range of 19th century materials, including Poole's Index to Periodical Literature (1802-1906) as well as other selected indexes to 19th century periodicals and patent and government indexes.
  • Early American Imprints, Series II, 1801-1819 (Shaw-Shoemaker) Available from anywhere to all members of the Northwestern University community -"Based on the noted 'American Bibliography, 1801-1819' by Ralph B. Shaw and Richard H. Shoemaker, Early American Imprints, Series II. Shaw-Shoemaker (1801-1819) provides a comprehensive set of American imprints published in the early part of the 19th century." This resource contains fully-searchable, image-based reproductions of more than 36,000 items, including books, broadsides, pamphlets, published reports, presidential letters and messages, congressional, state and territorial resolutions, "and the works of many European authors reprinted for the American public."
  • Early English Books Online Available from anywhere to all members of the Northwestern University community - Full images of books published in English from 1475 to 1700, including some colonial materials. Searchable by citation. To search the full text of a portion of the collection, use the Text Creation Partnership version.
  • Eighteenth Century Collections Online Available from anywhere to all members of the Northwestern University community - Full-text searchable facsimile page displays of approximately 24,000 books published in Britain and its colonies during the 18th century. When completed, 150,000 18th century works in all disciplines will be in the collection. Law is one of seven subject categories in these works.
  • Evans Digital Edition Available from anywhere to all members of the Northwestern University community - Page images and searchable ASCII text from the microform set Early American Imprints, Series I, based on Charles Evans'American Bibliography of texts from 1639-1800, including a large subject category called "Law and Crime."
  • HeinOnline Available from anywhere to all members of the Northwestern University community - HeinOnline provides many important treatises searchable in full text in its "Legal Classics" section, including the Federalist Papers.
  • Making of Modern Law: Foreign, Comparative, and International Law, 1600-1926 Available from anywhere to all members of the Northwestern University community - "[I]ncludes pre-1926 treatises and similar monographs, sourced from the collections of the Yale, George Washington University, and Columbia law libraries, in the following areas: international law; comparative law; foreign law; Roman law; Islamic law; Jewish law; and ancient law."
  • Making of Modern Law : Legal Treatises 1800-1926 Available from anywhere to all members of the Northwestern University community - "Provides digital images on every page of 22,000 legal treatises on US and British law published from 1800 through 1926. Full-text searching on more than 10 million pages provides researchers access to critical legal history in ways not previously possible."
  • Making of the Modern Economy : The Goldsmiths'-Kress Library of Economic Literature 1450-1850 Available from anywhere to all members of the Northwestern University community"Digital facsimiles of literature on economic and business published from the last half of the 15th century to the mid-19th century from the collections of the Goldsmiths' Library of Economic Literature at the University of London, England, and the Kress Collection of Business and Economics at the Harvard Business School; with supplementary materials from the Seligman Collection in the Butler Library at Columbia University, and from Sterling Library at Yale University. Collection contains materials on commerce, finance, social conditions, politics, trade and transport; documents the dynamics of Western trade and wealth; focuses on economics interpreted in the widest sense, including political science, history, sociology; special collections on banking, finance, transportation and manufacturing."

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LEGAL ARTICLES

  • HeinOnline Available from anywhere to all members of the Northwestern University community - Provides full text back issues of more than 500 law reviews. HeinOnline can be searched by title, author, or in full text from its search page. (You must click the "search" button for the search to proceed.) Note that the full-text search can be very time-consuming, but as this is the only current way to search the full text of all historical law reviews, it may be time well spent.
  • Index to Legal Periodicals and Books Available from anywhere to all members of the Northwestern University community - Indexes articles from over 800 legal journals, and from major law books published since 1993. "Legal Periodicals Retro" component allows for searching for articles dating back to 1918, and can be searched by itself or simultaneously with the Index to Legal Periodicals & Books covering 1981 to present. Focus is on publications from the United States. Does not contain any articles in full text, but does link to full text on HeinOnline or other full text sources. For historical coverage, be sure to select "Legal Periodicals Retro" from "Open Database Selection Area" menu at top.
  • JSTOR Available from anywhere to all members of the Northwestern University community - Searchable digitized backfile of over 100 scholarly journals in a variety of disciplines. Like HeinOnline, these journals generally go back to the very first issues of the journal. A relatively small number of legal journals is included.
  • Older legal journal indexes. The print Index to Legal Periodicals, located in the Law Library reference room at K 33 .I534, goes back to 1908. The Index to Legal Periodical Literature, also in the reference room at K 33 .I533, was published starting in 1888 and includes articles back to 1786, and is searchable in the 19th Century Masterfile Available from anywhere to all members of the Northwestern University community.

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NONLEGAL ARTICLES

  • 19th Century Masterfile Available from anywhere to all members of the Northwestern University community - (Indexes to Articles). Provides online access to a large range of 19th century materials, including Poole's Index to Periodical Literature (1802-1906) as well as other selected indexes to 19th century periodicals and patent and government indexes.
  • America: History and Life Available from anywhere to all members of the Northwestern University community - (Indexes to Articles) Citations and abstracts from more than 2,100 journals of American and Canadian history. While this index is not a resource for primary historical materials, it provides access to articles written since 1964 in history journals, many of which provide an historian's perspective on matters of interest to legal scholars.
  • APS Online: American Periodical Series I, II and III Available from anywhere to all members of the Northwestern University community - "Digitized images of articles from over 1100 American periodicals published between 1741 and 1900."
  • Economist Historical Archive (1843-2003) Available from anywhere to all members of the Northwestern University community - Fully searchable complete facsimile edition of The Economist, the weekly paper which is essential reading for anyone engaged in politics, current affairs and all aspects of business and trade worldwide.
  • Humanites & Social Sciences Index Retrospective Available from anywhere to all members of the Northwestern University community - (Indexes to Articles) Indexes articles published between 1907 and 1984 in almost 1200 scholarly periodicals.
  • JSTOR Available from anywhere to all members of the Northwestern University community - Searchable digitized backfile of over 100 scholarly journals in a variety of disciplines. Like HeinOnline, these journals generally go back to the very first issues of the journal. Some legal journals are included.
  • Periodicals Archive Online (PCI Fulltext) Available from anywhere to all members of the Northwestern University community - A major online periodical archive that makes the backfiles of periodicals in the humanities and social sciences available electronically, providing access to the full text of a growing number of digitized periodicals that have been indexed in its sister database, Periodicals Index Online.
  • Readers' Guide Retrospective Available from anywhere to all members of the Northwestern University community - (Indexes to Articles) Historical index (1890 to 1982) to over 250 general interest periodicals.

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NEWSPAPERS AND TELEVISION NEWS

Newspapers Full text

Newspapers Indexes

  • 19th Century Masterfile Available from anywhere to all members of the Northwestern University community - (Indexes to Articles). Provides online access to a large range of 19th century materials, including Poole's Index to Periodical Literature (1802-1906) as well as other selected indexes to 19th century periodicals and patent and government indexes.
  • Historical Index to the New York Times, 1851-1923 Available from anywhere to all members of the Northwestern University community - (Indexes to Articles).
  • Official Index to the Times, 1906-1980 Available from anywhere to all members of the Northwestern University community - (Indexes to Articles). Index to the Times of London.
  • Palmer's Index to the Times, 1790-1905 Available from anywhere to all members of the Northwestern University community - (Indexes to Articles). Index to the Times of London.
  • Other newspapers. Indexes may exist for major city newspapers. For example, a NUcat search for boston globe as a phrase and index, all as title terms, reveals that the Northwestern Main library in Evanston holds an index to the Boston Globe from 1983 forward.

Television News

  • The Vanderbilt University Television News Archive Must be used while on the NU campus provides a searchable index to television news broadcasts since 1968, and provides video clips from CNN news broadcasts since 1999. (*Note: To view the resources, you need to have RealPlayer installed. Northwestern users do not have to pay any fees to get the RealPlayer. To find installation related information, please visit main library's RealPlayer Support web site)

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DICTIONARIES

Frequently when courts are asked to interpret the intended meaning of terms in constitutions and statutes, they look to dictionaries of the time the laws were created. The Law Library holds a few historical dictionaries, which are accessible in NUcat. A few dictionaries are available in the Reference Room, including a facsimile of an important dictionary contemporary with the founding of the United States, SAMUEL JOHNSON, A DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE (rev. 4th ed. 1773), PE 1620 .J64 1978.

Making of Modern Law : Legal Treatises 1800-1926 Available from anywhere to all members of the Northwestern University community , Eighteenth Century Collections Online Available from anywhere to all members of the Northwestern University community, and Evans Digital Edition Available from anywhere to all members of the Northwestern University community, discussed in detail above, provide many general and specific dictionaries, encyclopedias, and other reference works from the time periods contained in the databases. With some of these databases, dictionaries are a specified category that can be independently browsed or searched.

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BIOGRAPHICAL SOURCES

  • Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774-Present. Comprehensive database of biographical sketches on past and present members of the U.S. Congress.
  • Biographies. From Internet Public Library. Has links to numerous general Web-based biographical resources; in addition, some resources are grouped by category, such as artists and architects, authors, entertainers, musicians and composers, politicians and rulers, and scientists and inventors.
  • Chicago Biographical Dictionary. from Encyclopedia of Chicago.
  • Dictionary of Political Biography Must be used while on the NU campus. From Oxford University Press; includes over 1,000 entries for all major figures in world politics from the 20th Century.
  • Encyclopaedia Britannica Guide to Black History. Contains over 400 short biographies of famous contemporary and historical Blacks in the "Articles A-Z" portion.
  • The First Ladies. A part of the official White House web site, this site contains short biographies of all the first ladies from 1789 to the present.
  • Gale Biographies (GALBIO) Available from anywhere to members of the NU School of Law community. Available through Lexis. Contains "more than 100,000 profiles on people from all facets of life and from all regions of the globe."
  • Lives, the Biography Resource. Contains links to thousands of sources of biographical information available on the Web. Links to resources that are less authoritative than some of the other biographical sources listed here, but we include it because of its comprehensiveness.
  • Oxford Guide to the United States Government Must be used while on the NU campus. From Oxford University Press; includes biographies of all Presidents, Vice Presidents, Supreme Court justices, notable members of Congress (including the current leadership), and more.
  • POTUS: Presidents of the United States. From the Internet Public Library, this site contains "background information, election results, cabinet members, notable events, and some points of interest on each of the presidents."
  • Who's Who in the Twentieth Century Must be used while on the NU campus. From Oxford University Press; includes over 2,000 short biographies of men and women from different countries and cultures.
  • World Statesmen. Includes "rulers of nations, colonies, international and religious organizations, and other polities from about 1700, [i]ncluding maps, flags, constitutions, and national anthems."

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STATUTES, CASES, and GOVERNMENT DOCUMENTS

The Law Library holds many historical government documents, including congressional documents and agency documents. Many of these documents are listed in NUcat under their official title, though many older government documents are not. Consult with Pegeen G. Bassett, Government Documents Librarian, Pritzker Legal Research Center with questions. For assistance with legislative history, see the Law Library's extensive guides to U.S. Government Resources.

  • LLMC-Digital Available from anywhere to all members of the Northwestern University community - Digitized collection of legal literature and U.S. government documents. "In its first 27 years of operation, it filmed over 7,500 titles, some 90,000 volumes, of interest to researchers in law and history. Its backfile comprises the world's largest collection of legal literature and government documents in microform. That backfile, and future filming of some 10,000 volumes per year, are being made available for on-line access on this web site."
  • Yale Law School Avalon Project. "The Avalon Project is dedicated to providing access via the World Wide Web to primary source materials in the fields of Law, History, Economics, Politics, Diplomacy and Government. We intend to add value to these primary sources by linking to other documents expressly referred to in the body of the text. We also intend to provide as many internal links within a document as are necessary to facilitate study and navigation." The Avalon Project includes many transcriptions of U.S. founding documents, including the Federalist Papers, colonial records, and constitutional background materials.
  • West's American Digest Century Edition abstracts U.S. cases from 1658-1896; many volumes are now digitized. Volume 50 indexes the entries. This set helps collect very old cases by topic.

States

  • The library has print and microform collections that include state official reports that pre-date the National Reporter System, state session laws, and superseded state annotated codes. The official reporters and superseded state statutes are in storage. Request them from the circulation or reference desks. State session laws are located in the library's state law section in the tall stacks on the third floor, north side, alphabetical by state.

Federal

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FOREIGN, INTERNATIONAL, and ANCIENT LAW

The library holds a major collection of historical foreign and international law materials, including treaties, records of international tribunals, and older foreign law. Especially with respect to older law of foreign countries, a good deal of the materials are in closed stacks. Many of these can be accessed in NUcat, but do not hesitate to consult Library Reference, Foreign, Comparative, and International Law Librarian (e-mail | (312) 503-8451) , with any questions about the Law Library's foreign and international holdings.

  • HeinOnline Available from anywhere to all members of the Northwestern University community - Contains a substantial Treaties and Agreements Library.
  • Making of Modern Law: Foreign, Comparative, and International Law, 1600-1926 Available from anywhere to all members of the Northwestern University community - "[I]ncludes pre-1926 treatises and similar monographs, sourced from the collections of the Yale, George Washington University, and Columbia law libraries, in the following areas: international law; comparative law; foreign law; Roman law; Islamic law; Jewish law; and ancient law."
  • Making of Modern Law: Foreign Primary Sources, 1600-1970 Available from anywhere to all members of the Northwestern University community - Contains approximately 1,500-2,000 historical statutes and codes, in English and Western European languages, from numerous European countries, with emphasis on Great Britain, Ireland, France, and Germany (including Prussia and Bavaria), though also including primary law from Austria (including Austria-Hungary), Switzerland, Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, and Sweden.

Also keep in mind that other sections of this guide, such as the LEGAL ARTICLES section, will provide historical coverage of foreign and international issues as viewed from U.S. and U.K. sources.

Of particular note, Northwestern University holds a major collection of historical African materials in its Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies.

  • Fordham University Internet Ancient History Sourcebook. Contains transcriptions of legal texts from cultures in the ancient Near East, Greece, the Roman Empire, India, China, and Japan.
  • Yale Law School Avalon Project. "The Avalon Project is dedicated to providing access via the World Wide Web to primary source materials in the fields of Law, History, Economics, Politics, Diplomacy and Government. We intend to add value to these primary sources by linking to other documents expressly referred to in the body of the text. We also intend to provide as many internal links within a document as are necessary to facilitate study and navigation." The Avalon Project includes many transcriptions of ancient, foreign, and international legal, political, and diplomatic materials.

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CHICAGO and ILLINOIS

The Law Library holds a number of works related to Chicago and Illinois history. One way to locate some of them would be a NUcat "Guided Search" using chicago and history ("all of these") in the subject, along with a relevant keyword, such as environmental justice.

  • Abraham Lincoln Papers. Library of Congress and Knox College joint project. Many of Lincoln's papers, including legal filings in Illinois courts, are available in full images and transcription.
  • Chicago Tribune (1985- ) Available from anywhere to all members of the Northwestern University community - "Reporting and analysis of regional, national, and international news, from 1985 to the present."
  • Chicago Tribune (Historical)  Available from anywhere to all members of the Northwestern University community - "Reporting and analysis of regional, national, and international news." Currently covers 1890 to 1985.
  • Chicago Historical Society. Located about a mile north of the Law School, "[t]he collections of the Chicago Historical Society provide a rich source of materials for the study of Chicago's history, and many aspects of American history. The collections number an estimated 20 million items, including photographs and drawings, diaries and letters, costumes and textiles, sound recordings and films, books and newspapers, furniture and manufactured objects, architectural fragments and renderings, and many other artifacts."
  • Chicago Public Library. The Chicago Public Library contains a substantial collection of Chicago Municipal Documents, in addition to many works on Chicago and Illinois history. It also presents online exhibits pertaining to Chicago history.
  • Encyclopedia of Chicago. "Developed by the Newberry Library with the cooperation of the Chicago Historical Society, and more than a decade in the making, The Encyclopedia of Chicago is the definitive historical reference on metropolitan Chicago. Here, hundreds of historians, journalists, and experts on everything from airlines to Zoroastrians explore all aspects of the rich world of Chicagoland, from its geological prehistory to the present." The online encyclopedia, developed with Northwestern University, is fully searchable. Also fully browsable in print in the Reference Room at F 548.3 .E53 2004.
  • Homicide in Chicago 1870-1930, presented by Northwestern University. "The years between 1870 and 1930 marked the emergence of Chicago as a dominant American city, undergoing some of the most dramatic and extensive social, political and economic changes in our national history. Against this backdrop we present a unique record - the Chicago Police Department Homicide Record Index - chronicling 11,000 homicides in the city during those years."

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OTHER LIBRARIES and ARCHIVES

Libraries

  • Center for Research Libraries. Located in Hyde Park, Chicago. "CRL is a consortium of North American universities, colleges, and independent research libraries. The consortium acquires and preserves traditional and digital resources for research and teaching and makes them available to member institutions through interlibrary loan and electronic delivery." Among the collections at CRL are an extensive collection of state agency materials prior to 1951, a collection of 100 African-American newspapers, a collection of U.S. ethnic newspapers, and other U.S. newspapers.
  • Chicago Public Library. The Chicago Public Library contains a substantial collection of Chicago Municipal Documents, in addition to many works on Chicago and Illinois history. It also presents online exhibits pertaining to Chicago history.
  • Library of Congress American Memory Collection. "American Memory provides free and open access through the Internet to written and spoken words, sound recordings, still and moving images, prints, maps, and sheet music that document the American experience. It is a digital record of American history and creativity. These materials, from the collections of the Library of Congress and other institutions, chronicle historical events, people, places, and ideas that continue to shape America, serving the public as a resource for education and lifelong learning."
  • The Newberry Library. Located near the Law School, "The Newberry Library is an independent research library concentrating in the humanities with an active educational and cultural presence in Chicago. Free and open to the public, it houses an extensive non-circulating collection of rare books, maps, and manuscripts."

Archives

  • Archives USA. Available from anywhere to all members of the Northwestern University community - Searchable Archives Directory. "Bibliographic records describing primary source materials in archives and manuscript repositories from throughout the United States. Combines three major research resources: Directory of Archives and Manuscript Repositories in the United States (DAMRUS), last published in 1988; National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections (NUCMC), compiled by the Library of Congress from the 1950s through the end of 1997; and names and detailed subject indexing from the major microform set National Inventory of Documentary Sources in the United States (NIDS)."
  • Chicago Historical Society. Located about a mile north of the Law School, "The collections of the Chicago Historical Society provide a rich source of materials for the study of Chicago's history, and many aspects of American history. The collections number an estimated 20 million items, including photographs and drawings, diaries and letters, costumes and textiles, sound recordings and films, books and newspapers, furniture and manufactured objects, architectural fragments and renderings, and many other artifacts."
  • NARA's Great Lakes Region (Chicago). Maintains retired records from federal agencies and courts in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

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