Legal records, those records created and used by law courts at both a national and local level, contain a vast array of information pertinent to those interested in every aspect of history. Though these records were created for legal purposes, their content is of use to a far greater range of people than just legal historians.
Family historians can use them to find out more about their ancestors, local historians to find out more about local people or the history of particular houses, estates or places. Social historians and historians of crime use them to find out how people were expected to behave in the past, and what happened when they broke the rules. Family historians find in them all sorts of lively details about family quarrels conducted via the legal system.
If you have thought about using legal records, but been put off by not knowing where to look for them or how to use them, this workshop is for you.
This two-day workshop, led by Dr Daniel Gosling – Early Modern Legal Records Specialist at The National Archives – introduces the many varied types of legal records, held in both national and local repositories, and explains how to get the most from these records in your research. The workshop includes introductory lectures on the English and Welsh legal system and its records, plus practical sessions examining the different types of documents (in transcript). No pre-existing knowledge is required.
Types of records we will look at include plea rolls of the central law courts, dating from 1273-1847, which give us an unparalleled window on persons, places and events from the medieval and early modern period onwards. We will look at land and title deeds, telling us about the property owners and power brokers of society. We will see samples of town and county depositions, which are witness statements full of lively anecdotal detail about everyday life in the past. These include plea rolls of the central law courts, land and title deeds, and town and county depositions.
By the end of this workshop you will be able to identify different types of legal record, why these records were created, and how you might use the information in these records in your research.