Legal history resources

By | 26 May 2009

The Law Library now has both the hard copy (shelved at Ref 103) and online access to the recently published Oxford

Oxford International Encyclopedia of Legal History

Oxford International Encyclopedia of Legal History

International Encyclopedia of Legal History. 

It is, as one would hope and expect, a pretty formidable work! If you starting by clicking on Browse, the first entry is for Ā  a Sanskrit term meaning literally – I am told – “contentment of the self.” In Hindu law it is an important tool in judging whether some is right or wrong,  an exercise with plenty of contemporary resonance in England today. If you approach the work alphabetically then the first entry is for the Abbasid Dynasty of Iraq. Clear indications that the “international” in the title does indeed mean worldwide coverage.
There is a simple search box where you can type in a term or terms or a phrase within ” “. The search engine first performs a level one or standard search  matching all your terms to entry headings both at the start of articles and within them. You will then either be presented with a list of results, or if there has been no hit the search engine automatically proceeds to use your terms to comb through the encyclopedia at 3 more levels (all your terms in the full text search, then one or more of your terms in full text, finally a pattern search where it will look for words spelled like your versions in the full text – essential not just for those of us prone to typos but also because the text uses American spelling conventions (labor for labour etc)).
If you type in Solomon Islands (with or without ” “) you are given one hit – see Melanesia. Annoyingly there is no live link on this results page through to Melanesia – if you click on Solomon Islands you will find Melanesia offered down the left side column. But the quickest way is to click the Widen Search button on top of your initial results page and within a trice a level 2 search has been done and you have a live link to Melanesia on the results page in front of you. Take care – if you have not put Solomon Islands within ” “, then continued use of the Widen Search button will mean your results will include references to islands and Solomon separately! 
 Long lists of results are first listed according to relevance: search “law reporting” and the 10 results are listed starting with “Legal Literature in English Common Law” followed by “Law Reporting in English Common law,” “Precedent : Doctrine of Precedent” and “Sources of law in English Common Law.” A drop down menu offers to reorder the result alphabetically – in this case it means “Australia” tops the list, followed by “English law.” Unfortunately (a bit of a kiwi prejudice here) it proved impossible to use the drop down menu alone to turn the list back to Relevance ordering: to remove Australia from top position you have to reenter “law reporting” into the search box, change the drop down menu to relevance and hit return again.
 When you click through to an entry, the left hand column provides quick links to the various paragraph headings within the section,  and the bibliography at the end of the article. Then the left hand column suggests some useful “See also” links. For example at the entry on Penal Servitude in Chinese Law – you are prompted with links to Beating and whipping in Chinese Law, Exile in Chinese Law, Mutilation in Chinese Law, and the heading Punishment with the main entry of Chinese Law overview.
Finally, the left hand column offers Adjacent entries both above and below your result. This is, of course, where the marvellously tempting serendipity of alphabetical listing can take hold – and one risks wasting a lot of time persuing avenues not dreamt of before.  The entry immediately before Penal Servititude in Chinese Law was for Paul “the celebrated Roman lawyer.”  Curiously, there were no  “See also” links beside Paul (although checking the entry for Sabinus revealed not just a link back to Paul but also about ten further related links) – but perhaps this was an intervention from the god of employers reminding me that I could indulge in exploring further in my own time from home via OXLIP+ !

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