Early English Laws Project

British Library, Cotton Claudius B. IV, fo. 59

Early English Laws is a project to publish online and in print new editions and translations of all English legal codes, edicts, and treatises produced up to the time of Magna Carta 1215. It is a collaboration between the Institute of Historical Research at the University of London and the Centre for Computing in the Humanities at King's College London. The Arts and Humanities Research Council has provided initial funding for the first three years of the project (2009–11).

The main website is available at http://www.earlyenglishlaws.ac.uk, but you can also follow our progress on the project blog (http://blogs.cch.kcl.ac.uk/eel/).


The online publication will include:

  1. Felix Liebermann’s standard edition of Anglo-Saxon and post-conquest legal texts (Volume 1 of Felix Liebermann, ed., Die Gesetze der Angelsachsen, 3 vols [Halle, 1903–1916]).
  2. William Stubbs’ standard edition of assizes and other legislative texts from the reigns of Stephen, Henry II, Richard I, and John (William Stubbs, ed., Select Charters and Other Illustrations of English Constitutional History, 9th edn, rev. by H. W. C. Davis [Oxford, 1921]).
  3. New editions of 149 texts (with more anticipated) extending chronologically from Æthelberht of Kent (c.600) to the first issuance of Magna Carta (1215).
  4. Transcriptions of all important manuscript copies of these texts from 22 libraries and archives.
  5. English translations of all editions and of all transcriptions.
  6. Digitised images of all manuscript folios copied before the early 13th century which hold the texts. In a few instances, later manuscript folios will be provided when they are singular witnesses to the text or provide the text of now destroyed or damaged manuscripts.
  7. Introductions and commentary on all texts.
  8. Essays addressing key aspects of the laws.
  9. An interactive workspace where dissenting or alternative readings, translations, or interpretations can be offered alongside the work of project editors.


The first three years of the project will bring some aspects of the plan to completion. Digitised images will be published of Liebermann’s and Stubbs’ editions as well as of the manuscript folios. Recently published and new editions will be provided for a significant proportion of the overall corpus. For a list of the texts that will appear during this period, see EEL First Texts.

Completion of all of the project’s goals is expected to take ten years.

Editing the laws.

Much of the work for the project will be done by individuals and teams. Given the complexities of many of the texts, the board encourages editors to collaborate with other scholars—in general from other disciplines—to bring the greatest level of expertise to the task. The make-up of these teams will inevitably vary, but in addition to historians and language specialists, may also include palaeographers, anthropologists, sociolinguists, and lawyers. This does not mean a team must be interdisciplinary. Nor does it mean that a scholar may not undertake an edition without any collaborators.

Interested editors should consult the EEL Proposal Guidelines. Questions about all aspects of the proposal and editions should be sent to Bruce O’Brien, chair of the Literary Board and Associate Editor of the project or to the Project Officer, Jenny Benham. For a list of editions already in the proposal stages, see EEL Proposals in Progress and for a list of available texts for editing, see EEL Table of Laws.