The LLMC Digital database (hosted by LLMC, formerly the Law Library Microform Consortium) significantly increased its offerings of historical Latin American legal sources during the past year. As part of CRL’s effort to expand electronic access to Latin American documentation through the Global Collections Initiative, CRL will add up to 2,000 volumes of historical Latin American legal publications to LLMC Digital over the next three years (2018–2020).1
These new digital resources, with particular strengths in Argentina, Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, and Chile, will augment LLMC’s “Haiti Legal Patrimony Project” and a similar effort for Cuba in partnership with the Digital Library of the Caribbean, which have already digitized a significant body of historical and current material for the study of those two countries.
Described below are some of the major strengths of the Latin American collections in the LLMC-Digital database.
LLMC’s Latin American holdings are strongest in legislative publications, particularly for the countries listed above. Laws and decrees, conventions and treaties, and a variety of official administrative announcements were usually published in the order in which they were issued, often disseminated through official gazettes (“diario oficial”) to announce—and often as a requirement of law, effectuate—their implementation. Legislative decisions were also often compiled into official volumes (usually annually—though in practice often more sporadically due to political, financial, or other constraints). Given the difficulty in using these sources to study legal developments across multiple years, from time to time laws would be recompiled into indexes, digests, and annotated forms.
LLMC has sourced a wide variety of these publications from partner institutions and continues to add new titles and assemble complete runs as copies are identified and acquired. Some examples available as full-text resources include:
- Bahamas. [Session Laws] (1929–1981)
- Brazil. Coleção das leis... (1808–1889)
- Chile. Recopilación de leyes y reglamentos [por orden numero] (v. 1–55, covering 1893–1970)
- Cuba. Compilación ordenada y completa de la legislación cubana (1899–1934)
- Peru. Indice de leyes y resoluciones legislativas (1886–1929).
Under Spanish rule, Latin American countries were governed by a mixture of old Spanish codes, royal decrees, orders, and local legislation developed over the course of three centuries. Emerging independent countries set out to undertake a new codification of civil, judicial, and criminal law and procedure, heavily influenced by the tradition of Civil Law. This effort frequently resulted in competing factions and multiple failed attempts as legislators sought to balance laws previously in force with the traditions, customs, and local practice of each particular nation.
LLMC has assembled texts of hundreds of legal codes across the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. Materials available span 150 years and incorporate a variety of published material, including civil, penal, commercial, military, and rural codes. Recent additions include:
Argentina: Civil and penal codes from the 1930s to the 1970s, many from the Peron era. Provincial legal materials (e.g., 1938 and 1942 criminal procedure codes from Buenos Aires) are also now available.
Mexico: Commercial codes from the late 19th to the late 20th century, as well as a variety of state-level sources, including Mexico City, Baja, Yucatán, and Jalisco.
Peru: Civil, penal, labor, and social security codes from the early to late 20th century.
Uruguay: Civil, military, and rural codes, and descriptive texts spanning 1865 to 1976.
The judicial systems established following independence took numerous forms in Latin America, where degrees of judicial independence and authority varied from country to country. However, the basic organization of the Latin American judiciary is governed by constitutions, with higher and lower courts established to apply rulings based on the relevant codes and laws created by the legislature or by executive decree. Many of the higher courts (Corte Suprema, Corte de Casacion, and appellate courts) published official proceedings that documented important decisions.
Recently, LLMC made significant additions to its collection of Argentinian Supreme Court Rulings (Fallos de la Suprema Corte), now spanning 1865–2000. Additional examples of judicial proceedings in LLMC include:
- Brazil. Revista do Supremo tribunal federal. (1914–1925)
- Costa Rica. Sentencias de la Corte de Casación. (1888–1956)
- Peru. Anales Judiciales (Series 1, 1871–1898; Series 2, 1905–1978)
Additionally, LLMC has begun digitizing an interesting collection of historical court briefs and propaganda involving legal matters from mid-19th century Chile, many contemporary with the 1851 Revolution. The subject matter is varied, including intriguing materials involving slander, corruption, kidnapping, fraud, and inheritance.
Guides and Bibliographies
LLMC has digitized a variety of secondary source materials to serve as guides to the political histories and governmental structures of many countries. Contextualizing sources are usually found in the “Treatises” sections of the database for the various countries. Examples include:
The important historical series (1947) of guides to the law and legal literature of various Latin American countries produced by the Law Library of Congress (Latin American Section).
Colonial Office annual reports for U.K. Caribbean dependencies, including the Leeward Islands [1931–1954] / British Virgin Islands [1955–1973]; Bermuda [1936–1971]; Cayman Islands [1935–1973]; Dominica [1947– 1965]; Jamaica [1935–1960]; and Trinidad & Tobago [1936–1952].
LLMC reports that a larger collection of historical, commercial, corporate, and banking codes from a variety of Latin American countries will be available online in the near future. CRL is also reaching out to member libraries and partners for recommendations on additional priority materials, such as executive branch material (Mensaje Presidencial), legislative proceedings (Anales del Senado...), and judicial reports (Gaceta Judicial). Researchers can expect LLMC-Digital’s online Latin American offerings in these areas to increase significantly.
1. Note: links cited to content in LLMC-Digital are accessible to researchers at any institution having an LLMC or CRL membership.