Victorian precedents: Narrative form, law reports and stare decisis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Victorian-era law reports are often choppy or truncated, miserly in detail, and utterly lacking in character descriptions, creating what I have identified as an "anti-narrative" style. This article shows how the law reports use narrative conventions - often in counter-intuitive ways - to manifest the tension between a concrete case and the abstract rule which is its potential precedent. Incorporating a discussion of nineteenth-century theories of legal precedent and the history of common law reporting with a formal analysis, I contend that the insular "anti-narrative" form of the reports enables the communal nature and goal of precedential reasoning: the creation of a common law, dating from "time immemorial." It also reveals a legal doctrine - and a narrative genre - in crisis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)382-402
Number of pages21
JournalLaw, Culture and the Humanities
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Law


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