The British Library has judgments and case papers for almost all cases decided by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) from 1861–2007. We also have many published and archival sources to support your research on the Privy Council's judicial work.
About the collection
The judicial role of the Privy Council has been traced to medieval times. Since then its jurisdiction has expanded and contracted, as the Judicial Committee’s short video explains. By the 1920s a quarter of the world is said to have been able to appeal to the Privy Council. Today that jurisdiction is significantly reduced.
- judgments and associated orders in council
- appellants’ and respondents’ printed cases
- printed records of proceedings in the courts in which the case originated.
You can also find judgments of selected cases in a range of published law report series on Privy Council and appeal cases generally, particular countries or fields of law.
Our archival and manuscript collections feature materials relating to Privy Council appeal cases including India Office records and private papers of selected officials.
What is available online?
The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council provides recent cases and historical background.
The Institute of Advanced Legal Studies provides a range of resources relating to Privy Council case papers.
The British and Irish Legal Information Institute's (BAILII) has most Judicial Committee of the Privy Council Decisions from 1860 onwards and signposts selected earlier judgments from 1809. For cases decided 1950–85, BAILLII provides a parallel (but not identical) set of case papers to those you can find at the British Library.
Privy Council Papers (Exeter University) includes:
- case papers from six cases decided between 1869–1939
- a catalogue of metadata for appeals decided 1792–1998
- research articles.
An annotated catalogue of colonial appeals to the Privy Council from the American Colonies provides details and images of Privy Council records. These relate to disputes originating in the 13 colonies that became the United States. For many of these appeals, images and details are provided from Privy Council records, and from printed cases or briefs found in:
- the Hardwicke Papers in the British Library
- Sir George Lee's papers in the Law Library of Congress
- William Samuel Johnson's papers in the Law Library at Columbia University.
Anglo American Legal Tradition (University of Houston) offers digital images and details of Privy Council Registers (1649–1714).
Privy Council cases from colonial Australia (Macquerie University) provides material from 1809–50.
A dataset of the first 50 appeals from East India Company territories to the Privy Council (1679–1774) includes images from the National Archives' Privy Council Office records and British Library manuscript and shelfmark details where relevant.
What is available in our Reading Rooms?
You can consult our collection of Privy Council appeal cases (shelfmark P.P.1316) in the Social Sciences Reading Room. Items from this collection need to be delivered to this Reading Room. You can use our online catalogue entry for the collection to request cases from 1900–52 for delivery. Please ask a member of staff to help if you want volumes covering 1861–99 or 1953–2007.
The Social Sciences Reading Room is the best place to go if you need help using our online databases and printed resources for law reports and judgments, law books and journals, and government publications.
Privy Council Registers (16th–18th century), and digital archives relating to international affairs are among our electronic resources useful for researching Privy Council appeals. You can access these in any Reading Room.
If you want archival and manuscripts material, you will need to order these for use in the Manuscripts Reading Room or, where appropriate, in the Asia and African Studies Reading Room.
Please contact the Social Science Reference Service if you're unsure where to start.
What is available in other organisations?
The following institutions have Privy Council case papers:
- Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (IALS) has case papers from 1866–2008 (1866–1940s incomplete)
- Lincoln's Inn Library has case papers from 1795–2008 (1795–1847 Indian and Jamaican appeals only)
- The National Archives at Kew has Privy Council records including those of the Judicial Committee. Please note that the case papers 1792–2004 are not yet transferred to Kew.
You can search the English Short Titles Catalogue to identify locations for individual cases printed before 1801.