[Open-Legislation] Intro / Historic Statutes

John Levin john at anterotesis.com
Mon Feb 24 12:41:15 UTC 2014

Hi Francis & list,

Thanks for your comments.

I'm very interested in the importance of historic, repealed legislation 
for today's legal practitioners. I confess I have little legal 
knowledge, even about historic law; it's just one of those things I've 
run into whilst doing my PhD on debtors in the c17th / c18th.

I'd love for the SLD to take on historic statutes, though it is my 
understanding that establishing canonical versions is very problematic. 
For example, the original scrolls had no punctuation whatsoever, and 
most of the printed collections have added it. Which adds to the 
complexity, and so also the cost, and I really don't see govt funding 

The SLDs XML schema looks very good - what I understand of it! - but for 
the moment I'm concerned with transcribing laws relating to debtors into 
plain text, as that's good enough for my immediate needs, namely text 

I'm also doing some work on Wikipedia's law pages, sorting them out and 
adding the texts I have so far.

Best wishes


On 18/02/2014 20:10, Francis Davey wrote:
> 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.
> Francis
> 2014-02-18 16:34 GMT+00:00 John Levin <john at anterotesis.com
> <mailto: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
>     <http://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/
>     <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

John Levin

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