[Open-Legislation] Intro / Historic Statutes

Francis Davey fjmd1a at gmail.com
Tue Feb 18 20:10:09 UTC 2014

Hi John,

That is very interesting and could be useful for anyone trying to do
historical research.

This does occasionally matter even to practising lawyers - a recent High
Court decision on mooring rights in the Thames turned on a statutory
vesting of the bed of the Thames in the Port of London Authority in a local
Act. Property lawyers do sometimes have to know the state of the law as at
some date in the past and it is far from easy to do so.

The obvious thing to do would be to try to find a way to have this included
as part of the statute law database. The SLD has a very good schema for
legislation, capable of handling the complexities and oddities of English
statutes. But I doubt there would be any state funding for it. It is
conceivably possible that some kind of crowd-source effort could be done,
with some computational support from wikisource.

At the moment the team at the SLD are focussing on bringing everything up
to date - target end 2015 - but projects after that are mostly on improving
information, data and usability.

When I next see the head of SLD I'll ask him about historic law.


2014-02-18 16:34 GMT+00:00 John Levin <john at anterotesis.com>:

> Hi,
> A belated introduction, because I wanted to have something to show as well.
> I'm John Levin, a PhD student at Southampton, studying debtors in the long
> c18th century. Part of this involves reading a lot of old legislation, most
> of it repealed, covering debt, prisons, courts etc.
> Finding this legislation has not been simple. The main accessible sources
> are the old volumes in Google Books and the Internet Archive. There are the
> usual problems of poor scans, missing books and misleading metadata there,
> and also the problem that the different collections of statutes have
> different standards and criteria.
> The official source for laws in the UK, legislation.gov.uk, concentrates
> on the laws in force, and has very little coverage of repealed material.
> Consequently, I have compiled a great long list of links to the
> collections of statutes on Google & IA, and published it here:
> http://alsatia.org.uk/site/2014/02/resource-acts-of-parliament/
> At minimum it is a useful finding aid. But I'm a historian, so of course I
> believe that access to repealed legislation, in canonical form and open
> format, is just as necessary as any other set of government data. I outline
> some arguments in the above post.
> I know that Open Legislation is more concerned with contemporary
> legislation, but I hope there will be some crossover, technical and
> political, with historic issues.
> John
> --
> John Levin
> http://www.anterotesis.com
> http://twitter.com/anterotesis
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Francis Davey
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