Corpus of Historical English Law Reports 1535–1999 (CHELAR)

CHELAR is a specialised corpus consisting of law reports dating from the period 1535–1999. Law reports are records of judicial decisions which are “cited by lawyers and judges for their use as precedent in subsequent cases” (Encyclopædia Britannica Online s.v. law report); they typically contain an account of all the facts of the case, the arguments of the judge, his reasoning, the judgment he arrives at and the kind of authority and evidence he uses.

The earliest law reports were brief manuscript notes of proceedings which were collected and published annually, whence their name Year Books. The Year Books were produced between 1268 and 1535; they consisted of anonymous reports written either in French or Latin and contained no bibliographical information. From 1535 onwards law reports have been written in English, and have followed a standard format. The year 1535 was therefore chosen as the starting date for CHELAR.

Law reports have a primarily informative function and can be broadly categorised as expository, descriptive legal writings, as opposed to legislative, prescriptive writings such as acts of parliament, statutory documents, contracts, agreements, wills and insurance policies. CHELAR thus enables researchers to investigate a legal text type which is not included in any other existing diachronic corpus – apart from the legal section in ARCHER 3.2, also compiled at the Research Unit for Variation, Linguistic Change and Grammaticalization of Santiago de Compostela as part of their work for the ARCHER Consortium.

Project leader: Teresa Fanego, University of Santiago de Compostela
Time of compilation: 2011–2016
Size: 463,009 words
Language: English
Number of texts/samples: 185 files / 369 texts
Period: 1535–1999
Released: 2016
Funding: Spanish Ministry of Education and Science: 2011-2012; project no. HUM2007-60706.
Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, National Programme for Excellence in Scientific and Technical Research: 2015-2017; project no. FFI2014-52188-P.
Project home page:

Reference line and copyright

Corpus of Historical English Law Reports 1535–1999 (CHELAR). 2016. Compiled by Paula Rodríguez-Puente, Teresa Fanego (Project Director), María José López-Couso, Belén Méndez-Naya, Paloma Núñez-Pertejo. University of Santiago de Compostela: Research Unit for Variation, Linguistic Change and Grammaticalization, Department of English and German.


Fanego, Teresa / Paula Rodríguez-Puente / María José López-Couso / Belén Méndez-Naya / Paloma Núñez-Pertejo / Cristina Blanco-García / Iván Tamaredo. Forthcoming. The Corpus of Historical English Law Reports 1535–1999 (CHELAR): A resource for analysing the development of English legal discourse.

Rodríguez-Puente, Paula (comp.). 2016. CHELAR: Source texts and word counts. Available online (


Compilers: Paula Rodríguez-Puente, Teresa Fanego, María José López-Couso, Belén Méndez-Naya, Paloma Núñez-Pertejo.

Research assistants: Cristina Blanco-García, Iván Tamaredo, Daniela Pettersson-Traba.


Open access download. For the conditions of use of CHELAR, interested researchers can contact Teresa Fanego ( or Paula Rodríguez-Puente (

Associated projects

ARCHER 3.2 (A Representative Corpus of Historical English Registers, version 3.2)

Technical information

CHELAR is available as plain text and with POS annotation (CLAWS-7). It is currently being annotated following the XML-TEI guidelines.