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The Yale Law School Guide to Research in American Legal History$
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John B Nann and Morris L Cohen

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780300118537

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300118537.001.0001

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Colonial Law, 1600s–1770s

Colonial Law, 1600s–1770s

(p.75) 3 Colonial Law, 1600s–1770s
The Yale Law School Guide to Research in American Legal History

John B. Nann

Morris L. Cohen

Yale University Press

This chapter explores the sources and techniques useful for finding information about the legal culture and law of individual colonies. While the rights and laws of England were the primary source of the laws of the colonies, local laws also governed. Indeed, each of the thirteen North American colonies had different fundamental laws, charters, and local legislation and courts. Publication of American law books came slowly from the earliest American printing presses. Not surprisingly, these first books were not carefully written legal treatises. They were instead publications of the colonial governments—often statutory—and “how-to” manuals and formbooks primarily designed for justices of the peace, law officers, and town officials. Other sources of information on colonial law include colonial charters and legislation, royal proclamations, colonial court decisions, and colonial court records.

Keywords:   colonial law, North American colonies, American law books, legal treatises, colonial governments, colonial charters, colonial legislation, royal proclamations, colonial court decisions, colonial court records

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