The Project

The primary aim of The Statutes Project is quite simple: to put the entire corpus of English / British parliamentary law online, for free, in multiple and easily reusable formats.

This also means producing reliable, and freely usable, metadata, finding and visualizing the relationships between the acts, and investigating ways of digitally analysing the texts.

The bulk of the content has been taken from digitized volumes over one hundred years old, and therefore out of copyright and in the public domain.

The Author

The Statutes Project has been set up by John Levin. I blog, I tweet, I write about debtors in prisons and in sanctuaries.

The Copyright

All texts, information and whathaveyou are provided as-is, and absolutely no guarantees or reassurances as to truth, accuracy or punctuation are offered. Don’t even think of citing it in front of a judge. Or a barrister. Or even some guy down the pub.

All the original material posted here is copyright John Levin and licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 4.0 unless otherwise stated.

The statutes and the books from which they are transcribed are in the Public Domain being published before 1971. Some materials may have been made available by the U.K. Government under the Open Government License 3.0.

9 thoughts on “About

  1. Praachi

    I am looking for the original text + amendments to the Epidemic Act, 1897 promulgated in India. I have not been able to locate it in the Indian Gazette site of Government of India or the legislation site ( India Code).

    Could you provide some guidance.

  2. Chris Béchet

    Dear John,

    I’m a linguist interested in the history of the English language and French and I discovered your website while looking for sources where I could find legal documents to complete a corpus. I also noticed that you OCRized a great deal of the sources mentioned on your website, which is remarkable. I just have one request. Many of the earliest texts were written in French and the French parts were removed from the files on GitHub. Do you keep archives of the files you created and would you agree to share them? I’m interested in the French parts you removed. Also, the earliest texts in English were written in a language that is somewhat different from Present-day standards, so I wondered if you kept previous versions of the OCRized texts without normalizing them.

    Thanking you in advance,

    C. Béchet.

    1. johnl Post author

      Dear Chris,

      thanks for your comment.

      This is really outside my area of expertise, but I believe that from around 1271 to 1483, some English laws were made in French. I don’t know how many, or if all, or if they were translated into English at the time.

      Volumes 1 to 3 of Pickering, 1 and 2 of Ruffhead, and 1 and 2 of the Statutes of the Realm, cover this period, and contain French-language texts. I removed French (and Latin) from Pickering & Ruffhead, as I was (and am) automatically correcting the English OCR, and the scripts would simply scramble other languages.

      However, older versions of the files on github are accessible through the web interface, by choosing a file, then clicking on the ‘history’ button on the right hand side. Scroll back a few years, and you should find a point when I was removing the non-English content. E.g., Pickering vol. 1.

      However, it will be poor quality OCR, and perhaps of little use.

      I haven’t done any normalizing on any of the texts on Github, beyond replacing the ‘long s’ with a standard short s.

      The compilers of the collections of the statutes assembled in the eighteenth century may have adapted older texts to their standards in some ways. But I think they preserved much of the spelling of older statutes, as have I. The ‘Statutes of the Realm‘ set is closest to what actually appears on the manuscript rolls themselves. For the earlier volumes, this creates many OCR and transcription challenges, which is why I have neglected them.

      I hope this is of some use, though I’m afraid it’s disappointing that I don’t have a corrected, bilingual corpus. I think the statutes offers a lot of potential for analysing linguistic change, and would love to hear about your progress.


      1. Chris Béchet

        Dear John,

        Thank you so much for your help. I will pay more attention to previous versions of the text and take what is necessary for my research. Have you ever considered using Transkribus for improved OCR of printed text ?


        1. johnl Post author

          Dear Chris,

          I didn’t think Transcribus was suitable when I started this project, and am now so far into text correction, that turning to it would be starting from scratch. Never mind time and money constraints!

          Certainly I now know that the trouble with poor OCR is the recognition, and the problem will be solved by improving that, and not through post-OCR correction. Nevertheless, there’s still a place for the latter.



  3. Mathias Jørgensen

    Dear John

    I’m a history student at Roskilde university in Denmark. Right now I am doing my thesis about wife sales and divorce in England around 1752 until the Matrimonial Act from 1857. Thank you for all your work on this site for digitalizing some of the most important marriage and divorce acts.

    I’m wondering wether there are any divorce acts, that I should know about. I haven’t been able to find any acts that is about divorce directly, or am I wrong? Or about wife selling.


    1. johnl Post author

      Dear Mathias,

      I’m very happy you have found the material on this site useful.

      Prior to 1857, divorces could only be obtained via a private act of Parliament. There’s a good article on these at the History of Parliament blog. So as far as I can see, divorce isn’t found in the public statutes until the Matrimonial Act. One curious exception: 1820, 1 George 4 c.101: An act to enable the Examination of Witnesses to be taken in India in support of Bills of Divorce on account of Adultery committed in India.

      To the best of my knowledge wife sales are also absent from the statute books.

      However, you may find Justice of the Peace manuals useful in researching this, given that they are at the border of formal law and everyday practice. I compiled a bibliography of freely available editions, which to my embarrassment I’ve just found to be missing URLs for many of them. Nevertheless, they should all be found in Google, Internet Archive & Hathi Trust. Burn’s J.P. & Parish Officer of 1788 has a section on husbands and wives living separately; the 1825 edition talks of wife sales too.

      Best wishes for your research,



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.