Legal History: Crime and Punishment Research Guide

This guide details primary English and American resources on the history of crime and punishment.

Newspapers & Journals Resources

Early American colonial newspapers, such as the Maryland Gazette, or the Pennsylvania Gazette, were often the only place official legal documents and proceedings were printed. So too will early British newspapers, such as the London Times or the Observer include such original materials. In the late 19th century, newspapers such as the New York Times or the Washington Star also carried the more sensational criminal proceedings of the day. Some, such as the Chicago Legal News were devoted to legal news exclusively. Many of these printed sources are available on microfilm, and a few are starting to be digitized online. The Library of Congress Periodical Reading Room is a very good place to go for indices to obscure early newspapers, and for many of the microfilm editions of these papers.

Law journals do not become widespread in the United States until the late 19th century, yet they too existed to report on legal news. The Index to Legal Periodicals, until recently available online only from 1980, is now available from the 1700s. Most law journals are now also available in electronic format, as well as microfilm and paper formats, through HeinOnline. Law journal articles, no matter when published, are excellent sources of secondary and primary information, and should not be neglected.

A. Newspapers

Many small newspapers existed in the 17th and 18th centuries, and are valuable for the information they contain. For a check on what is available at the Law Library, search under the series Early English Newspapers, or the subject Great Britain -- History -- George II-III, 1727-1820 - Newspapers

1. English Newspapers

AP3 .M52 Micro
The Aberdeen Magazine, Or, Universal Repository. 3 vols.Aberdeen: Printed by and for Burnett and Rettie, 1796-1798.

AP3 .M52 Micro
The Adventurer. London: Printed for J. Payne, 1753-1754. 3 vols. Semiweekly.

D2 .A7 1758
Annual Register, Or, a View of the History, Politics, and Literature for the Year... 140 vols. London: Printed for J. Dodsley, 1758-1898.

Also available in Media, but microfilm set is incomplete, from 1791 to 1837.

AP3 .M52 Micro
The Anti-Jacobin Review and Magazine. 35 vols. London : J. Whittle, 1799-1810.

Continued by the Anti-Jacobin Review and True Churchman's Magazine

AP3 .M52 Micro
The British Journal. 277 issues. Weekly. London: T. Warner, 1722-1728.

Continued by the British Journal, Or, The Censor

AP4 .G3 1731
The Gentleman's Magazine, Or, Monthly Intelligencer. 5 vols. London: R. Newton [i.e. E. Cave], 1731-1735.

Followed by:

AP4 1731 .G3 1736
The Gentleman's Magazine and Historical Chronicle. 94 vols. London: E. Cave, 1736-1850.

Both of these magazine are annual chronicles of everyday life in England, and include obituaries, book reviews, letters, birth announcements, news related to the Crown, politics, arts, literature and much more.

The London Times. London: Times newspapers, Ltd., 1788-.

Available on microfilm at the law library only, and online at Lauinger Library only.

2. American Newspapers

New York Times. 

This database offers full-page-images and article images from the New York Times from its first issue in 1851 to three years before the current date. The collection includes digital reproductions of every page from every issue, cover to cover, in downloadable PDF files. Another way to access is to connect to ProQuest through the Library's database list, and click on New York Times Historical. This is an extraordinary full-text searchable database. The New York Times is also available through LexisNexis, Westlaw, from the mid 1980s, and on microfilm.

The Wall Street Journal. 1889-.

The Washington Post. Washington, DC: Washington Post, 1877-.

Available in microfilm, in LexisNexis and Westlaw, and online from 1877 to 1988. 

The Evening Star. Washington, DC: Evening Star Newspaper, 1852-1972.

Also known as the Washington Star, this local newspaper is the better of the two around Washington in the 19th century, the other being the Washington Post. It is only available on microfilm, with a very poor index, so any searching of this newspaper must be done with a lot of time.

B. Journals

The earliest American law journals are from the second half of the 19th century, but they are still very valuable as sources of legal information. Most of the law journals are available in paper format, before 1980, on the first floor of the Law Library, though the collection is incomplete. Microfilm versions of most of the law journals are also available in the Law Library, on the 3rd floor, in Media. The easiest way to search them, though is through Hein Online. Non-legal journals should not be neglected. Indices to both of these times of journals are available in the library and online.


This is a digital collection of most, if not all, American law journals from their first issues to their current ones. The database is searchable, and can be printed or downloaded. It is slow to work, and does not work well in Netscape. Use Microsoft Explorer. You can only access it through the Library's database collection online, and you will need your user name and ID to get in offsite. Instead of trying to print anything that you need, try to either save it to a disc or CD, or too your computer, or make a note of the cite, and find it in the paper format.

An Index to Legal Periodical Literature. 4 vols. Boston : C.C. Soule, 1888-1939

The earliest journal articles from England, Canada, Australia and the United States are indexed here. This is also known as Jones' Index. It is not yet available online, but should be within the next year. Also know as ILP, it is available online through the Law Library's catalog. For journal articles after 1980, use LexisNexis or Westlaw.

KF8 .I35
Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals. London: Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, University of London, 1960-.