Skip to content Skip to navigation

Statement of Purpose

The inspiration for this database comes from a recognition that legislation a underutilized, yet widely available kind of evidence. Legislation reflects the political sensibilities of the legislators, if not the polity, that passes it. It contains considerable detail about the social, cultural, and economic characteristics of societies. It also offers opportunities for comparative research, if a tool is made available to facilitate it. This database is designed to support all those research interests.

For example, someone doing research on women's property rights might want to know how often dower was mentioned in legislation, such as pertains to inheritance and debts. Or a researcher wishing to know the frequency of timber legislation in all the Atlantic colonies from 1820-1850 could search for "timber". As well, it is possible to look at patterns of legislation passed in any one colony. In preparing this database, initial team of David Bent, Mark McLaughlin, and Elizabeth Mancke looked at how colonies prepared for the possibility of war between the United States and the British Empire between 1810 and 1815 and found many pieces of legislation - such as a bread assize in New Brunswick - that were clearly preparing for war and its social disruptions.