Institutes of the Lawes of England

Institutes of the Lawes of England

The Institutes of the Lawes of England are a series of legal treatises written by Sir Edward Coke. They were first published, in stages, between 1628 and 1644.[1] They are widely recognized as a foundational document of the common law. They have been cited in over 70 cases decided by the Supreme Court of the United States,[2] including several landmark cases. For example, in Roe v. Wade,[3] Coke's Institutes are cited as evidence that under old English common law, an abortion performed before "quickening" was not an indictable offense. In the much earlier case of United States v. E. C. Knight Co.,[4] Coke's Institutes are quoted at some length for their definition of monopolies.

The Institutes are divided into four parts:

  1. The First Part of the Institutes of the Laws of England, or, a Commentary upon Littleton. Often called "Coke on Littleton" or abbreviated "Co. Litt."
  2. The Second Part of the Institutes of the Laws of England; Containing the Exposition of Many Ancient and Other Statutes.
  3. The Third Part of the Institutes of the Laws of England; Concerning High Treason, and Other Pleas of the Crown and Criminal Causes.
  4. The Fourth Part of the Institutes of the Laws of England; Concerning the Jurisdiction of Courts.

See also

  • Books of authority


  1. ^ Rutgers University Law Libray, Website, Books of authority
  2. ^ LexisNexis search performed May 1, 2008.
  3. ^ Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 134 (1973).
  4. ^ United States v. E. C. Knight Co., 156 U.S. 1, 10 (1895).

External links

  • Three volumes of Coke's writings, with translations, notes, commentary, and an introduction, have been published as The Selected Writings of Sir Edward Coke, edited by Steve Sheppard (ISBN 0-86597-316-4). They are available individually as PDF files: vol 1 (pp. 1–520), vol 2 (pp. 521–1184), vol 3 (pp. 1185–1468). These also contain “The First Part of the Institutes of the Lawes of England: Or A Commentary upon Littleton, Not the name of the Author only, but of the Law it selfe”.
  • Selected Works of Edward Coke at the Liberty Library of Constitutional Classics, Commentary on English common and statutory law, including the Institutes and the Reports.
  • All four institutes are available from Google Books: First Part [1] (Volume 1 of 1832 ed.) [2] [3] (1853 American ed. in 2 vols) Second Part [4] (1797 ed.) Third Part [5] (1669 ed.) [6] (1797 ed.) Fourth Part [7] (1671 ed.) [8] (1797 ed.)

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