Author Archives: rbird1

On good kings

wenceslas Good King Wenceslas looked out on the Feast of Stephen,  When the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even.  Brightly shone the moon that night, though the frost was cruel,  When a poor man came in sight, gathering winter fuel.
(Words by: John M. Neale (1818-1866); first ap­peared in Car­ols for Christ­mas-Tide, 1853, by Neale and Thom­as Hel­more)

On this Saint Nicholas’ Day, let’s celebrate another saint long associated with Christmas – Wenceslas!  There are many versions of the joyful carol Good King Wenceslas, written in the 19th century. Whether an Irish rendition, a Bing Crosby classic, or a tenor with choir,  the carol evokes classical  themes – kindness, charity, pure white winter snow and goodness. When Good King Wenceslas (who was not a King, but was Good) looked out on that snowy feast of St Stephen and displayed his  concern for the poor, he was behaving in a way that we think leaders should, showing genuine concern for their subjects.


In England the standard for the behaviour of fair and good rulers was enshrined in law at Runnymede, in 1215, when King John signed the Magna Carta. This important document is  held by the Bodleian Libraries – we are fortunate to have three copies of the 1217, and one of the 1225 Charters in the collection. The Magna Carta is a good example of how  legislation is amended and changed over time, with only three of the original 39 clauses still being in force today:

  • Clause 1, the freedom of the English Church
  • Clause 9 (clause 13 in the 1215 charter), the “ancient liberties” of the City of London
  • Clause 29 (clause 39 in the 1215 charter), a right to due process

The numbering of the clauses of the original Charter was done by ‘our’ own Sir William Blackstone, fellow of All Soul’s College, jurist, judge, Vinerian Chair of English Law at Oxford, and author of the Commentaries on the Laws of England. Our law library holds all editions of the Laws in our Secondary (superseded) collection, at CW UK 510 B631; a free online full text edition can be found online at the Lonang Library. Image

But I digress too much! Back to good old Wenceslas, who was a 10th century Bohemian baron, and not to be confused with King Wenceslaus 1 of Bohemia, (known as ‘the One Eyed’) who   reigned in the 13th century. This reminds us of identity fraud, which is a serious issue in the computer age, but as we can see with Wenceslas, can lead to historical confusion as well, even if not deliberate as these examples here.  Our Good  King was expropriated by the Catholic Church as an exemplar of  ‘the righteous king’; his actions followed this exhortation in St Luke: “When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed.” (Luke 14:13-14). More recently, Saint Wenceslas became the patron saint of the modern day Czech Republic. His remains are in St Vitus Cathedral in  Prague, his skull is displayed in procession once a year, and his statue dominates the square in Prague named after him.  Wenceslas was recognised as a saint because he was seen as a martyr after being killed at the instigation of  his younger brother Boleslaus (Boleslav?); the brother repented and converted to Christianity, and it was said miracles took place at the church where Wenceslas had been lured by his assassins.


Canon Law governs the operation of Christian churches and over time it has established the rules for recognising a saint.  For example this set of rules  outlines the operation of Catholic Church, and this one lists the canons of the Church of England. A detailed site which brings together all freely available texts on medieval canon law can be found here. In the more secular age it is also interesting to find commentary on canon law via  ‘In the light of law’, a blog by J.D. Peters,  a modern day running commentary by a canon lawyer.

These sources are useful for researchers who may be disappointed that the Bodleian Law Library does not collect in the field of Canon Law. This is the result of the banning of the teaching of Canon Law at Oxford and Cambridge by Henry VIII at the time of the dissolution. In compensation for this radical move, Henry established the Regius Chair in Civil Laws based at All Soul’s College Oxford, a post held currently by Prof. Boudewijn Sirks, and previously held by distinguished scholars Peter Birks and Tony Honoré.

crown-graphicsfairyWenceslas would have been pleased when countries such as England started to enact laws to protect the poor, such as the 1601  Poor Relief Act in England, updated in 1834 by the Poor Law Amendment Act. What may have surprised him is the concept of Constitutional Monarchy and its relationship with parliament,  having been killed at the behest of his envious younger brother;  he would have appreciated the moderate approach of most modern countries to royal succession. But what would he have made of the disappearance of the geographic entity he knew as Bohemia, and even more confusingly, Czech membership in 2004 of the European Union? He would have been well placed to find out more about it from the myriad resources on the internet (now there’s a concept to grapple with in the 930’s – times like this I want a Tardis!) including our LibGuide to EU Law.

123470-004-3A1AEE5B Bohemia  had been a kingdom within the Holy Roman Empire, and then a constituent state under the Hapsburg Empire. After World War One  it formed the largest part of the newly formed Czechoslovakia, fell under the Stalinist sphere of influence after the Second World War, and in 1993 became part of the newly created Czech Republic after the ‘Velvet Revolution’ a couple of years earlier had removed the communist government.  The Czechs settled on Saint  Wenceslas’  feast day – 28 September – as their national day.  An excellent guide to the Czech legal system can be found at Globalex.  The new republic  has been very active since its founding, placing its legislation online in full text. Of course if you are not a Czech speaker  it can be difficult to read the legislation, and we find that a good starting point can be to use the Google Chrome browser, which displays the Google Translate tool, and can provide an entirely pragmatic and unofficial translation.

By the way, there is a great deal of official, and sometimes authoritative, legislation available online,  and all of our jurisdictional LibGuides have a link to  relevant legislative sites.

Back to the main story, we are of course talking about kindness and consideration shown by a leader for the poor, who were often unable to keep warm at this festive time of the year. A snowy Boxing, or St Stephen’s,  Day without heating is still a concern for many millions of people; perhaps we need a Wenceslas to come and talk to the energy corporations on behalf of the poor; he may have greater success than our politicians.

789crownAt Christmas time we all enjoy hearing the carols from King’s College, even though it is ‘the other place’,  and we look forward to its presentation on TV,  available from the BBC.  Wouldn’t it be nice if  ‘Good King Wenceslas’ was included?

Notable Works launch event

We asked our law academics to write about one or two notable works that had influenced their thinking. The request was not limited to the influences on their academic role, but in general. The aim was to have an interaction with our colleagues that was not just related to work. We were absolutely thrilled when over 40 of them took the time to write a small piece which explained their selection. From their contributions we prepared a booklet, and a website, (and linked from our website

We also purchased, as a special collection, their selections, which will be on permanent display in the law library. The works include poetry and paintings and some music as well as some great literature, so it is eclectic in nature. The joint Faculty / LawBod launch took place this evening.  The photos show some of the contributors, the books selected, the Dean, and some of the law library project team. We have had wonderful feedback, with many academic colleagues regretting missing the deadline. Whilst there was a fair bit of work and cajoling along the way, the combined efforts of a dedicated team of law library staff resulted in a book and  website worth reading. We have enjoyed trying something a little bit different with our academic colleagues. The books will remain on display as a special collection in the corridor shelves on Level 1, near the EU collection.

What’s UPSO at OUP, and the Oxford Index..

I’d like to draw your attention to a resource called the Oxford Index. It is a free resource available to everyone, and it may have a usefulness beyond the usual legal research sources we are familiar with.
The breadth of online materials on the OUP platforms can be quite difficult to identify easily, because the digital resources vary in format and purpose. Bibliographies and journals and e- monographs covering many subjects and titles can be discovered via Google and other search engines, and there are records in institutional online catalogues. But the introduction of this new free search and discovery portal makes it all so much easier to find what’s there.
The Index searches well over two and a half million abstracts from OUP publications such as essays, journals and chapters from monographs and reference works, and the results provide summaries from the resources identified by the search. The abstracts are very informative, and include chapters within books. It is possible to set up free personalised accounts, so searches can be saved and results bookmarked. Results include related content links, broadening the usefulness of the results.
As subscribers to OUP’s online resources, the result links to the full text of the item irrespective of where it is located within the Oxford contents. The index is not restricted to law, but covers all OUP online subject coverage, so this can also be rewarding, as other types of material may be retrieved that can still be relevant to a query.

Search for International Law on the Index

Search for International Law on the Index

And now we come to UPSO. OUP ‘s  academic publishing arm provides a wide range of online monographs and journals. A couple of years ago OUP decided to broaden its offering of scholarly titles by bringing together some of the leading University Presses which may not have been able to provide their own online platforms. The aggregated monographs are easily accessible via University Press Scholarship Online (UPSO), with content from the following presses:

The American University in Cairo Press;  University of Chicago Press;  University of California Press;  Edinburgh University Press;  University Press of Florida;  Fordham University Press;  Hong Kong University Press;  The University Press of Kentucky;  Manchester University Press;  Policy Press; and launching this year:  Liverpool University Press ; The MIT Press ;  Stanford University Press and Yale University Press.

We  subscribe to these OUP resources, so the range of resources indexed includes UPSO titles, as well as Oxford Scholarship Online (OSO) which contains 886 law titles, all searchable via the index.

OUP’s  law database materials, which are mainly in the field of Public International Law, are not included in the Oxford Index search. This includes the Max Planck Encyclopaedia of International Law and the  Oxford Law Reports on International Law.  Both these have their own search interfaces on their home page, to search within their content. And don’t forget that updates to the ORIL, via RSS feeds, are free, and may act as a useful alerter to new cases as they are added.

World Justice Project

I hadn’t heard about the World Justice Project until recently, but it’s worth spreading the word. The World Justice Project aims to strengthen the Rule of Law ‘for the development of communities of opportunity and equity.’ It released its Rule of Law Index yesterday, which is available from the website. This comparative analysis of adherence to the rule of law is the product of 5 years’ work, interviewing some ordinary people as well as experts in 97 countries.

The WJP is a not for profit organisation and works with communities throughout the world on a range of legal related  issues. The Index measures 8 factors, eg absence of corruption, open government, justice and civil rights, for 97 countries, and provides a ranking and score for each country. The UK scores from 11th to 17th out of 97 in the ranking. It makes for interesting reading.

Open Access and the Free Access to Law Movement steps along the way

It is 20 years since the first free online legal material was made available to the world via the internet, at Cornell, with the establishment of the Legal Information Institute. Since then there has been a growth in both Legal Information Institutes, and in the Free Access to Law Movement (FALM). Initially, there were no specific principles established for the long term operation of open access to legal materials. The initial choices made by Cornell LII were that access was to be non-profit, there would be no user access charges, access would be anonymous by users, that existing data could be republished, using multiple sources for this data if needed.

In 2002, a meeting of the representatives of the Legal Information Institutes established the Montreal  Declaration  which reinforced the precepts from Cornell, and added  that public legal information is digital common property, and that government bodies that create legal information have an obligation to provide access for re-publication.

The movement gained greater authority in 2008, when the Hague Conference on Private International Law called a meeting of over 30 free access to law providers, and established a set of Guiding Principles that States should adopt as part of an International Hague convention to ensure their e-legal materials are freely accessible.

The next step along the path was the adoption by the Uniform Law Commission of the US of the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act, in 2012. This has been enacted into law in Colorado, and is likely to be passed in 4 other States soon.

In 2102 The Hague Convention met with representatives of the EU to extend the reach and support for the Guiding Principles for the Access to Foreign Law in Civil and Commercial Matters

So the current state of play is the endorsement by FALM and other NGOs  of the Declaration on Free Access to Law, moves toward national implementation such as UELMA, and international implementation via the Hague Conference Convention on Access to Foreign Law

A proposal for a UN General Assembly Resolution is hopefully the next step, alongside endorsement by other intergovernmental bodies such as CHOGM.

The importance of all these steps along the journey of the free access to law movement is the gradual acceptance by governments that they need to endorse the publications they provide online as authorised documents, so that the e-version can be referred to and cited with confidence, on the one hand by lawyers and courts in other countries, and on the other hand by the public whose taxes support the creation and maintenance of the laws and the courts of the country.

Locate an online law report or a journal

Do you ever get frustrated because you can’t remember whether Lloyds Law Reports are on Lexis, Justis or i-law nowadays? Or whether the New South wales Law reports are available electronically? We have a database on our website that provides a quick and easy way to locate a series of law reports or a journal title online. You can find it when you click  here.
Features include the ability to search:

  • just for a jurisdiction
  • part of a title
  • across both journals and law reports
  • by database

The list also displays at a glance the law library’s holdings in paper, and the shelf location. Holdings details have been checked and updated over the summer. This list provides the information for the Holdings List; the 3rd edition will be available before the end of term.

Once ther results are displayed, it is possible to sort the results by any of the fields, and display them in different ways.

And finally, with the display of results, you can click on the database name to be taken straight through to its home page.

Important information for users of International Law in Domestic Courts

This message came through from OUP:

We would like to inform you of some changes to International Law in Domestic Courts (ILDC). On 10th July 2008 ILDC will become part of a broader service called Oxford Reports on International Law. There will be no interruption to your access, but you will see a new-look site and an improved service.


How to access International Law in Domestic Courts after 10th July


1)    Visit the same url as ILDC:

2)    Click on View Decisions by Module and select International Law in Domestic Courts

3)    Proceed as before


If you have any access problems or questions please contact Angela at the law library or Oxford’s support team on: 

Telephone: +44 (0) 1865 353705


Fax: +44 (0) 1865 353308


What is Oxford Reports on International Law?


Oxford Reports on International Law is a new modular service offering broad coverage of international case law from international courts and tribunals, domestic courts and ad hoc tribunals. The ILDC service will form one module of Oxford Reports on International Law.


New benefits for ILDC subscribers


Free access to ICJ and PCIJ cases

From August you will have automatic free access to the new Oxford Reports on International Courts of General Jurisdiction module, which includes cases from the International Court of Justice and Permanent Court of International Justice.


The Oxford Law Citator

The Oxford Law Citator is powerful research tool provided free of charge with Oxford Reports on International Law. It is an ongoing project which will continually improve and enhance linking and referencing throughout the service.


More information can be found here 


Hein online update


Hein have introduced a new research tool, MyHein.  Check out the features of this new tool below.
  • Bookmark articles and search results
  • Create tags for your results  
  • Save search queries to quickly run the same search next time you’re logged in
  • Easy to use with several help guides available
  • Anyone can register for an account
Law Journal Library – Browse & Search by Subject/U.S. State/Country

Researchers will find an exciting new enhancement, subject searching, in the Law Journal Library.  This new tool will give researchers the ability to search or browse journal titles by subject, country, or state.  There are more than 80 subjects to choose from, with many of the journals classified into multiple subjects.   For help using this new feature, visit our “How To” help guide at:
Searchable PDFs  
Searchable PDFs are now available in 21 HeinOnline libraries.  Researchers will now find this enhancement in: American Association of Law Libraries, Association of American Law Schools, Foreign Relations of the United States, Harvard Research in International Law, U.S. Federal Legislative History Library, U.S. Presidential Library, U.S. Statutes at Large Library, U.S. Supreme Court Library, Treaties and Agreements Library.  Please take a moment to watch a quick video on the benefits and advantages of using searchable PDFs.  Click Here For Video.  

What law journals and reports do we have in the Law Bod?

Sometimes it is difficult to locate the title of a law report or journal in the catalogue because you don’t know it exactly. That’s when the search facility on the Law Library’s webpage can be useful. On this page you can enter part of a title, and, if we hold it, it will be listed.  To get to this page, go to the homepage and select Law Reports or Law Journals link under the Collections heading.
The added value of this listing is that you can find out where the e-version of the journals/reports can be found, and you can also see the volumes/years we hold for the paper copies of journals.

Law Lords blogging too!

A report today from the House of Lords that nine peers will be setting up a blog pilot for six months to publicise the work of the House. The site is called Lords of the Blog. It went live today, and encourages ‘direct dialogue between web users across the world and Members of the House of Lords.’ It has a nice, chatty approach, and worth a visit – lots of comments already!