A Machine-Learning History of English Caselaw and Legal Ideas Prior to the Industrial Revolution I: Generating and Interpreting the Estimates

29 Pages Posted: 28 Dec 2020

See all articles by Peter Grajzl

Peter Grajzl

Washington and Lee University - Department of Economics; CESifo

Peter Murrell

University of Maryland - Department of Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: 2020

Abstract

The history of England’s institutions has long informed research on comparative economic development. Yet to date there exists no quantitative evidence on a core aspect of England’s institutional evolution, that embodied in the accumulated decisions of English courts. Focusing on the two centuries before the Industrial Revolution, we generate and analyze the first quantitative estimates of the development of English caselaw and its associated legal ideas. We achieve this in two companion papers. In this, the first of the pair, we build a comprehensive corpus of 52,949 reports of cases heard in England's high courts before 1765. Estimating a 100- topic structural topic model, we name and interpret all topics, each of which reflects a distinctive aspect of English legal thought. We produce time series of the estimated topic prevalences. To interpret the topic timelines, we develop a tractable model of the evolution of legal-cultural ideas and their prominence in case reports. In the companion paper, we will illustrate with multiple applications the usefulness of the large amount of new information generated by our approach.

JEL Classification: C800, N000, K100, Z100, P100

Suggested Citation

Grajzl, Peter and Murrell, Peter, A Machine-Learning History of English Caselaw and Legal Ideas Prior to the Industrial Revolution I: Generating and Interpreting the Estimates (2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3751865 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3751865

Peter Grajzl

Washington and Lee University - Department of Economics ( email )

Lexington, VA 24450
United States

HOME PAGE: http://home.wlu.edu/~grajzlp/

CESifo ( email )

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

Peter Murrell (Contact Author)

University of Maryland - Department of Economics ( email )

College Park, MD 20742
United States
301-405-3476 (Phone)
301-405-3542 (Fax)

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