Saturday, June 19, 2010

Patrick on Newspapers as a Legal-Historical Record

Jeremy Patrick, a Ph.D. candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School, has posted Beyond Case Reporters: Using Newspapers to Supplement the Legal-Historical Record. Here is the abstract:
Judicial opinions selected for inclusion in case law reporters are only a small fraction of the universe of legal materials that may provide insight into the history of how legal concepts work in practice. This article examines a neglected source of information: newspaper archives, many of which are becoming available in full-text electronic databases. This article argues that newspapers are a valuable supplement and corrective to legal research performed through traditional means. It includes a test case of how research on a discrete legal topic (Canada's prohibition on blasphemous libel) turns up very different results in newspaper archives compared
Mr. Patrick’s paper reminds me of an article by my colleague James Oldham that made an analogous point, before the advent of on-line, full-text newspaper databases, for England: “Law Reporting in the London Newspapers 1756-1786,” 31 American Journal of Legal History 177 (1987).