Monday, July 21, 2014

New database for Appeals to the Privy Council

A wonderful new resource for legal historians has recently been released online from two familiar faces at Boston College Law School: Sharon Hamby O'Connor, Professor Emerita, and Mary Sarah Bilder, Professor and Lee Distinguished Scholar. The database is called "Appeals to the Privy Council from the American Colonies: An Annotated Digital Catalogue" and currently offers access to all known cases appealed from the thirteen colonies that would become the U.S. to the Privy Council. That court heard appeals from the British colonial courts and ruled on all sorts of matters that would come to shape the law in these colonies, including U.S. constitutional law.

For these known appeals, the database provides links to digitized images of the original documents, where available. Fifty-four of the appeals include "printed cases" or briefs that lay out the reasons for the appeal. Contents are searchable via an internal search engine or via lists arranged in a variety of different ways (by colony, year, case name, etc.--be sure to look at the "Useful Lists" link on the bottom right of the homepage). 

Law students and scholars new to this type of research should review the compilers' memorandum, "Opportunities for Further Research, Discovery, and Investigation on Appeals to the Privy Council." Also, keep an eye out--the catalogue will expand to include appeals from Canadian and Caribbean colonies. In the meantime, have fun browsing through this rich source of U.S. legal history! 

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