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Law and legal studies an introduction to collections

This page explains what the subject law and legal studies covers, gives an overview of the material the British Library holds for this subject, and advice on how you can find and use it. It also gives details of current activities for developing the collections for this subject.

Law and legal studies collections include:

  • The law as transmitted by recognised law making institutions.
  • The detailed analysis and restatement of the law, precisely illuminating the meanings and applications of legal rules, principles and doctrines.
  • Research approaches employing varied methodologies to investigate relationships between law, legal institutions, and wider society.
  • Research from all disciplines, conducted at the level of the individual jurisdiction, regionally, internationally or comparatively, and with a contemporary or historical focus.

Collection overview

Legal information resources at the British Library are diverse, and reflect research and information needs from traditional doctrinal analysis to interdisciplinary enquiry.

Strengths include:

  • UK primary and secondary resources (legislation, case law, commentary).
  • Official Publications: states (gazettes, session laws, parliamentary publications, reports and statistics), and international organisations (treaties, parliamentary materials, reports, statistics).
  • Law reports: comprehensive coverage of UK jurisdictions and selected historical sources for overseas cases.
  • Academic law journals: extensive collections across languages reflecting multiple research approaches.
  • Text books: as well as comprehensive British collections, our collections include practical and academic commentary on overseas jurisdictions in original language and translation.
  • Electronic resources: databases include abstracting and indexing services and full text journal collections for legal and related research; historical and consolidated legislation; case law; parliamentary publications for UK jurisdictions; and full text historical legal treatises and scholarly editions of legal records.

You will also find rich resources for research on law across the Library. For example: manuscript and archival collections including the India Office archives; oral history recordings, intellectual property documentation from around the world; conference reports; and newspapers.

Most books and journals can be ordered via Explore the British Library. The Social Sciences enquiry team (see below) can assist in ordering Official Publications. A significant range of resources can also be obtained via our Document Supply Service. A selection of legal text books and journals recently published in the UK is available on the open shelves in the Social Sciences Reading Room along with key reference materials, UK and EU legislation.

Decisions about the Library’s collecting for primary legal resources are made with reference to a national rationale for supporting foreign, comparative and international legal research. Please see the Current Activities below for more detail.

Finding aids

Social Sciences Enquiry team

For more help on using the Social Sciences collections, contact the Enquiry team at or telephone +44 (0)20 7412 7676 from 10.00 - 20.00 Mon- Thurs or 10.00 - 17.00 Friday.

Current activities and your legal research

We have refined our Content Strategy (i.e. what we collect now and in future). Please see the content strategy documents at  You will see descriptions for individual subjects listed in the appendices. Law is described at page 18.  Remember that different aspects of a research theme may be described by more than one subject template.

We regularly consult with legal researchers to understand more about legal research information needs and experiences of using the British Library and other collections and resources.