Monday, March 16, 2015

Reuse of the Field Procedure Code and Other Legal Texts

We have news, via Kellen Funk, the Legal History Fellow at Yale Law School, that he and Lincoln Mullen, and assistant professor in the Department of History and Art History, George Mason University, are in the midst of a digital history project, Detecting Text Reuse in Nineteenth-Century Legal Documents: Methods and Preliminary Results, and have just posted an update focusing on the Field Procedure Code.

From Professor Mullen's website:
How can you track changes in the law of nearly every state in the United States over the course of half a century? How can you figure out which states borrowed laws from one another, and how can you visualize the connections among the legal system as a whole?

Kellen Funk, a historian of American law, is writing a dissertation on how codes of civil procedure spread across the United States in the second half of the nineteenth century. He and I have been collaborating on the digital part of this project, which involves identifying and visualizing the borrowings between these codes. The problem of text reuse is a common one in digital history/humanities projects. In this post I want to describe our methods and lay out some of our preliminary results. To get a fuller picture of this project, you should read the four posts that Kellen has written about his project: