Category Archives: Site News

New Year, new social media

As Twitter has been turned into a neo-fascist cesspit by its white-supremacist owner, I am no longer posting on the Statutes Project account there. Once I have done some tidying, I will be locking the account.

In its place, I have started accounts on two other social media netwroks. I will endeavour to keep these accounts in sync, manually at first, pending some sort of general social media app that can handle multiple systems.

You can find the Statutes Project on Mastodon, courtesy of Humanities Commons, at, and on Blue Sky at

One hundred thousand page views

A milestone: This site has just had it’s one hundred thousandth page view.

The most popular pages – leaving aside the home page – have been the bibliography of the Statutes of the Realm, and the Chronological Bibliography; the most viewed laws have been James 1’s notorious Act against Witchcraft, and George 1’s Transportation Act.

It’s very gratifying that this site has been so useful, even if, as yet, it is a rather random collection of statutes, and a fraction of the total number passed.

But I persist in thinking that this material is of considerable historical significance and utility. As such, it requires cataloguing and curation – and I’m amazed that this hasn’t been done already – and also rendering into formats useful for humans, and the computers they use.

Obviously, this project is constrained by time and abilities; it is taking considerably longer than I had envisaged to correct the texts, and in the meantime given me a thorough course in regular expressions. Not only can the machine do only so much correcting, every correction has to be pattern has to be formulated by a human.

Currently, I am focusing on producing tables of the acts, public, local and private, from Restoration to Irish Independence, 1660 to 1921. I hope these will allow both the finding of both individual acts and acts by type, and open a way towards statistical analysis of legislative patterns over two and a half centuries.

To see the hundreds of tables already transcribed, see these directories in the Statutes’ Github Repository:

Public Acts; Local Acts; Private Acts.

If you find this site, and the larger project, useful, feel free to make a donation via Kofi. Contributions will be used to pay the hosting charges and expenses related to research, reward the editor with a nice meal, and if the donations are significant, hire people to develop the site and proof the texts.

It should go without saying, however, that all content on this site is, and will always be, free to read, use and download, either public domain (which applies to all the legislation ) or open access by CC-SA-4 (my own contributions).

Updates, August and September 2017

The last two months have seen: continuing automated correction of the OCR-generated text of Pickering’s Statutes At Large, and some of the Butterworths-published volumes (1807 to 1819, in other words those using the ‘long s‘). The bash script I have written for this is improving, and I hope to release it soon on github (under a free license of course).

A side effect of hunting down erroneous OCR is the production of lists of such mistranscriptions. I have started to put those on Github; used with the forthcoming script this will constitute an easy way of improving raw OCR of eighteenth century books.

I have started a page collecting volumes of historic American state legislation, mainly colonial, but with some post-revolutionary laws.

SSL has been enabled for the site, courtesy of a free certificate via my hosts Evohosting and Let’s Encrypt! I will be making all URLs secure by default at some point in the future; this should not break any pages you have bookmarked. Until then, simply starting any them with ‘https://’ will call up the secure advise

New laws added to the site, including: the 1807 Abolition of Slavery Act; from 1740, encouragement of mariners; and Hogarth’s act for protecting copyright in engravings of 1735.

There will now be a hiatus until November, whilst I concentrate upon writing my PhD thesis.

May, June and July 2017 updates

Work on the Statutes Project in the last three months has mainly consisted of running bash scripts on the OCR of Pickering’s Statutes At Large, to correct the more obvious errors. It’s slowly getting into easonable shape. You can find the latest plain text on the Statutes Github repository.

More tables of acts have been added: they now run from 1716 to 1736, with some others up to 1760. The aim is to have a complete set covering the reigns of Georges one and two by autumn. Then some text mining can begin. Again, find them on Github.

Various individual acts have been added to this website, including the Licensing Act of 1737, the Irish Dependency Act, it’s repeal and a clarification of the repeal. Plus the Equal Franchise Act of 1928, to accompany the recent election and its surrounding ballyhoo.

Also added is 1661 Tumultuous petitioning act, taken from the Ruffhead edition of the Statutes at Large, as it does not appear in the Danby Pickering series I have been concentrating on. Consequently, it looks a little different, as the two versions have different standards and protocols.

On the agenda for the next couple of months: more automatic OCR correction, and more tables.




March and April 2017 Updates

Work on the Statutes Project in March and April 2017:

0: Numerous corrections to Pickering’s series of Statutes at Large. Latest versions to be found, as ever, on Github.

1: More tables of statutes uploaded to Github. Currently, there are tables for public acts 1716 to 1736, with just 1721 missing. This I’ll upload shortly.

2: More legislation collected, to the point that the menus are getting unweildly and I’ll have to do some reorganizing. Acts added include:
The Murder Act of 1751, giving the corpses of the hanged to the surgeons (and occasioning many a riot).
The Regency Act 1729, allowing the Queen to govern whilst George the Second went off to Hanover.
The Septennial Act, extending the life of a parliament to seven years. A quite undemocratic act, had there been any meaningful suffrage

On the to do list for May 2017: due to the demands of my PhD, I’ll be working on the insolvent debtor relief acts from 1649 to 1813 over the next month; consequently, those texts will be corrected and added.

February 2017 Updates

Work on the Statutes Project in February 2017:

0: Numerous corrections to the OCR of the Pickering and Ruffhead editions of the Statutes At Large, uploaded to Github. Still a long way from readable, but getting there.

1: A new series OCR’d, or at least half a series. The Statutes of the Realm was the most academic, comprehensive and careful collection of acts, the text generally taken from the statute rolls themselves. Consequently, it is a typographical nightmare, and the OCR is  worse than for the – admittedly less reliable – series of the Statutes At Large. I have put on Github the text for two volumes (numbers 3 and 5) found on Google, and, thanks to the University of Southampton waving their No Derivatives license, the text for volumes 6 to 11 from the British Parliamentary Publications set, digitized by Soton, on

2: I have also started extracting the tables of acts from the OCR’d volumes, and uploading them to Github. The idea is to create a reliable list of legislation enacted, with the long title of each act. Given the length of titles, this will constitute a corpus of sufficient size for text mining and distance reading (I hope). It also constitutes the first step in creating metadata for this project.

3: Laws collected from around the web:

1536 27 Henry 8 c.19: An act limiting an order for Sanctuaries and Sanctuary persons.

The 1918 Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act: Allowing women to sit in Parliament, and the shortest statute at a mere 27 words, when preamble and short title clause are put aside.

4: And also: a short post on James I’s laws on sanctuary, over at my  Alsatia blog.

Planned for March: More acts collected from round the web, and more tables of statutes.

January Updates

Work on the Statutes project for January 2017:

0: OCRed two volumes of ‘The Statutes Of The Realm’, as digitized by Google. This is an important collection of legislation from Magna Charta to 1714, derived from close study of the original manuscripts, and contains laws not found in other collections. Raw OCR can be found on Github, and be warned, it’s very raw, as this series goes to great lengths to transcribe the original texts, with all their irregularities and without softening them for the modern eye. I hope to have more news concerning other volumes soon.

1: Tidying up of, and various corrections made to – by hand and by find-and-replace – the OCR of the Pickering and Ruffhead editions of The Statutes At Large. I needed to locate every use of the term ‘sanctuary’, so waded through the alphanumeric soup. Investigations into automatic correction are ongoing.

2: Added a bibliography for the digitized volumes of Ruffhead’s series of ‘The Statutes At Large.’ This gives the particular volumes I have OCRed, each with their own idiosyncracies and missing pages. Also added a bibliography for historic French statutes up to the revolution of 1789, though I have no plans to do anything with these right now.

3: Added to the statutes collected from round the web:
The Quartering Act 1774
1849: 12 & 13 Victoria c.92: Cruelty to Animals Act
The Debtors Act 1869

December Updates

Work on the statutes project in December 2016:

Not much accomplished this month, given the seasonal festivities. However:

0: On a whim I have OCR’d the 12 volumes collecting the statutes of Ireland, 1310 – 1800. The raw and very messy OCR can be found on Github. As with many of these retrospective collections, they are far from complete, neglecting statutes expired or repealed. I have not decided what to do with them, given that the English / British statutes take priority, and are daunting enough a task alone, but I will probably be producing corrected versions of legislation dealing with debt, as and when I need them. After the Union of 1800, Irish legislation is to be found in the main body of United Kingdom law.

1: Added to the general collection of statutes gathered from around the internet: the infamous ‘Cat and Mouse’ act of 1913, used against imprisoned Suffragette hunger-strikers.

On the to do list for January: thinking about automatic correction of OCR’d text, using titles of statutes as metadata, and hopefully some long overdue blog posts.

November Updates

Work on the Statutes Project in November 2016:

0: The big news is that the OCRing of the digitized volumes of statutes is now complete. That’s a total of 137 separate volumes. Quite how many words that is I haven’t checked yet, but the Danby Pickering series alone contains around 13 million words. There should be a more or less complete set of public acts from 1761 to 1875, 115 years worth of legislation in the volumes published contemporaneously. Before 1761, the statutes are incomplete as many acts that had either been repealed or had just expired were not included in the collections. The numbers missing are yet to be ascertained.

The raw OCR is available via github:

This stage complete, I now need to consider how best to correct the OCR and organize the texts. News on this next month.

1: Added the Riot Act of 1714 and the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876 to the collection of miscellaneous statutes.

October Updates

Work on the statutes project in October 2016:

0: Further OCRing of volumes of statutes. Current status is that the complete set of Danby Pickering’s Statutes At Large, from Magna Carta to 1806 have been put through the machine, as has what I’m calling the Butterworths series, spanning 1807 to 1839. Investigation of the avaiable digitized volumes of statutes suggest that there is a continuous series up until 1875, whereuon coverage gets very patchy. So for all intents and purpose, 1875 is the cut-off point for this project. Just another 35 years worth of statutes left to OCR!

1: Added two laws collected from around the internet:  The Witchcraft Act, 1735 and The Poor Law, 1601.

2: Added some volumes to the list of Scottish statutory resources, and started a page for Acts etc. for Burma / Myanmaar.

3: A visit to the V & A to see a perpetual motion machine that was not in motion. The promised post on the statute organizing its auction will be coming this month. Promise.

4:Discussion of getting the statutes on to Wikidata, with Andrew Gray.

5: What I’ve been reading (about law). Two short papers recommended by Law & History:

On the agenda for next month: the end, I hope, for the moment of the OCRing of the statutes, then some organizing and error correction of the resultant texts.