Online Medieval Sources Bibliography

An Annotated Bibliography of Printed and Online Primary Sources for the Middle Ages

Source Details

Brand, Paul A., The Earliest English Law Reports (4 vols., Selden Society, vols. 111, 112, 122, 123)

Text name(s): 

Number of pages of primary source text: 719


Dates: 1260 - 1290

Archival Reference: British Library, Cambridge University Library, Lincoln's Inn, Inner Temple, Trinity College Cambridge, Bodleian Library, Merton College, Huntington Library San Marino CA, Free Library of Philadelphia

Original Language(s): 

  • Anglo-Norman
  • Latin


  • Translated into English.
  • Original language included.

Translation Comments: Facing page translation

Geopolitical Region(s): 

  • England


Record Types: 

  • Court Roll
  • Law - Treatise/Commentary

Subject Headings: 

  • Government
  • Family / Children
  • Education / Universities
  • Economy - Trade
  • Economy - Crafts and Industry
  • Clergy - Priests, Bishops, Canons
  • Clergy - Monks, Nuns, Friars
  • Architecture and Buildings
  • Agriculture
  • Law - Crime
  • Law - Secular
  • Material Culture: Food, Clothing, Household
  • Nobility / Gentry
  • Peasants
  • Poverty / Charity
  • Recreation
  • Royalty / Monarchs
  • Towns / Cities
  • Travel / Pilgrimage
  • Women / Gender


  • Index
  • Introduction


At the end of the middle ages law reporting became a popular practice in which lawyers wrote accounts detailing how cases were argued and how decisions were reached in courts. They typically contain more information than the official court records for these cases. The reports were compiled in Year Books were compiled and used to instruct lawyers and to establish president. Because earlier reports were not reproduced in accessible, dated collections they have rarely been used. In these volumes Paul Brand has collected the early law reports from the reigns of Henry III (1216-1272) and Edward I (1272-1307).

The first two volumes contain all of the reports which relate to cases heard in the court of the Common Bench prior to 1290. After the Magna Carta (1215) the Common Bench had to be located in “some fixed place” where justices would hear private cases relating to the common law. By the end of the thirteenth century Westminster was established as the home of the court. The second volume contains summaries of cases and the indicies for the first two volumes.

The third volume consists mainly of reports of cases heard in the General Eyre from 1268-1285 but it also includes reports from other courts including the Assizes and the Exchequer of the Jews. The “general eyre” is a term that was invented by W.C. Bolland in the twentieth century. It referes to the wide powers which justices received when they were commissioned. In the General Eyres Itinerant Justices traveled from shire to shire hearing all of the civil pleas brough before them. The General Eyres probably began in the reign of Henry II (1154-1189) and ended in 1348. For more information about the General Eyre and for an extensive list of additional resources see David Crook, ed., Records of the General Eyre, Public Record Office Handbooks, No. 20 (London: H.M. Stationery Office, 1981).

For more information about law reports see: J. H. Baker, The Common Law Tradition: Lawyers, Books and the Law (London: Hambledon Press, 2000), Part II.

Introduction Summary: 

In his introduction Brand summarizes the history of law reporting. He then describes the sources used to compile these volumes before discussing the reports themselves. Brand focuses on enumerating the utility and reliability of the reports and gives biographical sketches of several of the judges who appear in these reports. In the second volume he lists the serjeants and gives some details about their careers before making some general remarks about reports from the Common Bench in the thirteenth century. The introduction to the third volume introduces the reports printed in it and the manuscripts they were derived from. It goes on to give summaries of the careers of the major figures in they Eyre courts at the end of the thirteenth century.

Cataloger: SES, egk