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An introduction to legal research in the jurisdiction of Spain
Last Updated: Oct 12, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates
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Last updated:

Katherine Read, July 2016


About the author

This guide was updated by Katherine Read, Principal Library Assistant at the IALS Library.

Click here for Katherine's full profile and contact details.

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    • Databases LibGuide
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    Useful links

    We also recommend the following online research guides for foreign jurisdictions.

    • GlobaLex
      A large collection of legal research guides covering foreign and international law, published by the Hauser Global Law School Program at the New York University School of Law.


    In comparison to France and Germany, which are two of the more prosperous well-developed stable European countries and have such a wealth of legal literature, there are problems with Spain and these are reflected in the state of the library's holdings for this jurisdiction. Spain is the second largest country in Western Europe. It has gone through great political, economic and legal changes in recent years, and continues to do so.

    The majority of the primary resources accessible at IALS are in Spanish. Details are given of the English language sources where available.

    Information resources on the Internet are less well developed for Spain than for other European countries. Where available, sources are given at the end of the relevant section. Fuller details of these sources can be found by using  Eagle-i

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    Primary sources: Constitution

    Similar to other continental jurisdictions, IALS sources are mainly commercial publications rather than official ones.

    Legislación Constitucional. Editorial Ariel, 2005-6 (Pedro Cruz Villalón) provides the text of the Constitution accompanied by related legislation.

    Constitución y Tribunal Constitucional 28th ed. 2012  (Civitas)

    A Spanish language version  of the Constitution is also available on the official website of the 'Senado'.

    A newer online resource for material relating to foreign constitutions, started in 2010, is World Constitutions Illustrated. This is a contemporary and historical collection of documents, which is available as part of the IALS subscription to HeinOnline. It is available to all users on site at IALS. Offsite access is limited to staff and students of IALS, SAS and University of London. It includes consolidated and original texts of the Constitution for different periods in time. It also provides full text links to a range of historical commentaries and articles about the Spanish Constitution, selected by the editors.

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    Primary Sources: Codes and statutes

    Spanish law is based mainly on Roman law, and much of the basic law derives from codes which were compiled in the 19th century under the influence of the Napoleonic codes.

    The most important codes are the Código Civil (Civil Code); Código Comercio (Commercial Code); Código Penal (Penal Code); Ley de Enjuiciamiento Civil (Law of Civil Procedure) and Ley de Enjuiciamiento Criminal (Law of Criminal Procedure; together with the later Código del Trabajo (Labour Code) and Leyes Civiles Forales (Civil Law of the Provinces).

    The most recent editions of the codes we have in the library are those published by Editorial Civitas in their series Biblioteca de Legislación. These unofficial commercially published annotated editions include:-

    Código Civil, 32nd ed., 2012
    Código de Comercio y leyes complementarias, 36th, 2012
    Código Penal, 38th ed. 2012
    Legislación sobre enjuiciamiento civil, 35th ed. 2012
    Enjuiciamiento Criminal, 33rd ed. 2012
    Legislación sobre medio ambiente 19th ed. 2012
    Leyes del Trabajo 6th ed. 2012
    Leyes Políticas del Estado 30th ed. 2012
    Propiedad intelectual  20th ed. 2012

    Spanish legislation becomes law once it is published in the Boletin Oficial del Estado (Spanish official gazette), which is freely available online in full text from 1st January 1960 at  For legislation added since 1st January 2009, this electronic source is now deemed to be an official and authentic source. For earlier material users who require an official source still need to consult the printed volumes. These are not held at IALS.

    This site offers free access to the following resources. Users can search and retrieve documents free of charge. A subscription is required for access to added editorial commentary. All texts are in Spanish only:

    Full text of the Boletin Oficial from 1960-
    Archive of historical editions of the Boletin from 1661-1959
    Full text of Spanish legislation from 1960

    The BOE website provides a more detailed summary of the coverage.

    Commercial series: IALS previously subscribed to an authoritative commercial series of legislation: Repertorio Cronológico de Legislación. This series started publication in 1930 and IALS incomplete holdings are from 1975 until 2006. Cumulative indices are also available.

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    Law Reports

    As with most civil law countries, judicial decisions are not of primary importance. Judicial decisions (sentencias) of the Supreme Court (Tribunal Supremo) collectively called 'jurisprudencia' are not binding decisions although they have some persuasive force. It seems in practice that the commercial series of judicial decisions are more popular than official sources. Judicial decisions of the Supreme Court have been published in the official Gaceta de Madrid (Madrid Gazette), but this has been unwieldy and access is not straightforward. Consequently because of these difficulties the commercial sources have come to be preferred.

    The main commercial series of law reports is:

    Repertorio de Jurisprudencia, 1930-31 onwards. Editorial Aranzadi, Pamplona

    This is a comprehensive collection of judicial decisions of the Supreme Court. The IALS library has this from l980, Volume 47 until 2006 (vols. 1-6). It contains the majority of all public international law cases.

    Repertorio Aranzadi del Tribunal Constitucional, (Decisions of the Constitutional Court) l981 onwards. Editorial Aranzadi, Pamplona (not held at IALS)

    The Constitutional Court (Tribunal Constitucional) has nationwide jurisdiction over issues relating to the Constitution and is not part of the judicial branch. Decisions of the Constitutional Court set binding precedent as interpretations of the Constitution. IALS does not subscribe but these decisions from 1980 onwards can be searched within the BOE website at

    Further sources of decisions include:

    Revista de la Corte Española de Arbitraje (Journal of the Spanish Arbitration Court) 1984 onwards (not held at IALS)

    This contains published decisions of international arbitration.

    Revista Española de derecho international, 1945 onwards (held at IALS)

    This contains extracts and notes of public international law cases (as reported in the Repertorio de Jurisprudencia) but not full reports.

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    The library holds a selection of Spanish legal periodicals, including all the older well-established titles. A list of the current titles only follows with an indication of our holdings:

    Anuario de Derecho Civil. l948, Volume 1 onwards
    Revista Española de Derecho Constitucional. 1999, Vol. 19 (55) onwards

    Revista Española de Derecho Internacional. 1948 onwards
    Revista Jurídica de Cataluña, 1950 onwards
    Revista Jurídica de Cataluña, Jurisprudencia.1971 onwards

    Spanish Yearbook of International Law 1991 onwards

    It is also worth noting the Revue Européenne de Droit Public/ European Review of Public Law, (held at IALS from 1999 onwards).  This is the first multi-national and multi-lingual review intended to promote the knowledge of the public law of each European country to fellow members of the Community. What looks particularly interesting in this context are the annotated bibliographies for member countries.

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    The following selection is a representative sample of the holdings in Spanish law at IALS. Please consult the catalogue for further texts.

    Administrative law:

    Curso de Derecho Administravo  Luis M. Cosculluela Montaner 17th ed. Civitas 2015

    Manual de Derecho Administrativo 
      Luis M. Cosculluela Montaner. 26th ed.  Civitas 2015

    Constitutional law:

              Derecho constitucional  2 vols. Luis López Guerra. Tirant lo Blanch 2013

    La Reforma de la Justicia Constitucional.  prólogo,  Eduardo Espín Templado and others. Thomson Aranzadi 2006

    Constitution of Spain : a contextual analysis. Victor Ferreres Comella. Hart Publishing 2013

    Commercial law:

             Lecciones de Derecho Mercantil 2 vols. Aurelio Menéndez and others. Civitas 2015           

    Criminal law :

             Enjuiciamiento Criminal  Aranzadi Civitas   33rd ed. 2012

    Family law:

    Comentarios a las Reformas de Derecho de Familia de 2005. José Ramón De Verda y Beamonte. Aranzadi 2006

    Intellectual property:

    Comentarios a la Ley de la Propriedad IntelectualReal Decreto Legislativo 1/1996, de 12 abril . J. Miguel Rodríguez  et al.  Civitas 2007

    Labour / employment law:

    Leyes del Trabajo.Introducción, Selección, Indices y Notas  Alfredo Montoya Melgar et al. Civitas  6th ed. 2012

    English language works on Spanish law

    The demand for English language texts began in earnest after the accession of Spain to the EC in 1986. At first there was very little in English, and inevitably such publications tended to be monographs of the 'doing business with Spain' variety, but then the field began to open up to other subjects.

    The following publications are in the library:

    Acantara, J.M. Transport Law in Spain Kluwer Law International 2012
    Alonso Olea, Manuel, Rodriguez-Sanudo, Fermin & Elorza Guerrero, Fernando Labour Law in Spain Kluwer Law International 2014
    Bataller Grau, Juan, Chiner, Nuria Latorre & Iglesia & Jesús Olavarría Insurance Law in Spain Kluwer Law International 2014
    Campins Eritja, Mar Environmental Law in Spain Kluwer Law International 2014
    Crespo Pérez, Juan De Dios Sports Law in Spain Kluwer Law International 2015

    Jiménez Piernas, Carlos. The legal practice in international law and European Community law. A Spanish perspective. 2007
    Letai, Pedro Cyber Law in Spain 2014

    Martínez-Torrón, Javier. Religion and law in Spain.  Kluwer Law International 2014
    Merino-Blanco, E. Spanish law and the legal system. Sweet & Maxwell, 2nd ed., 2006

    Rodríguez de las Heras Ballell, T. Introduction to Spanish private law: facing the social and economic challenges. Routledge-Cavendish 2010

    Romañach, J. Civil code of Spain  (as of August 1994).
    Sánchez Aristi, Rafael & Moralejo Imbernón, Nieves Property and Trust Law in Spain Kluwer Law International 2nd ed. 2014
    Spanish corporation tax legislation. Kluwer, 2000
    Spanish corporation law & limited company liability law. Kluwer, 1996
    Vaquer, Antoni Contract Law in Spain Kluwer Law International 2nd ed.  2015

    Villiers, Charlotte The Spanish legal tradition. Ashgate 1999

    It is worthwhile browsing the shelves as some general comparative texts include a chapter on Spain. Sections on Spain can be found in the following works, all of which are in the library:

    Bona, M. & Mead, P. Personal injury compensation in Europe: a comparative study. 2003

    Dabbah, M. & Lasok, P. ed. Merger control worldwide. 2005

    Harding, A. & Leyland, P. Constitutional courts: a comparative study. 2009

    Maitland-Walker, J. ed. Competition laws of Europe. 2nd ed. 2003

    Mankabady, M. Joint ventures in Europe. 2008

    Simmons & Simmons. Encylopedia of European  telecommunications laws. 2000

    Zimmermann, Klaus F. European migration. 2005


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    Resource Guides

    Cabrero, Olga. Guide to legal research in Spain. Published on the GlobaLex web site 2005. Updated by Vanessa Casado 2014

    Eagle - i    An Internet Portal for Law, provides quality web sites which have been evaluated according to a set of agreed criteria. It is currently being developed by the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies as a valuable successor to the legal branch of Intute.

    Kim-Prieto, Dennis. A brief guide to select databases for Spanish speaking jurisdictions.  Published on the GlobaLex web site 2007 and updated by Gloria Orrego Hoyos in 2015

    The Oficina Española de Patentes e Marcas (OEPM) is an official Spanish body which handles patents and trademarks.It hosts other trademark databases and gives access to recent issues of the Boletín Oficial de la Propriedad Industria. One of the databases available is the Archivo Histórico which holds older issues of the Boletín Oficial. It also includes  other historical documents and background information about the projects. The background detail is available in English but the documents are in Spanish only.

    Another useful resource is the FLAG Foreign law Guide (Search on Spain to discover which UK research and national libraries hold materials on Spanish law).

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