Introduction to the History of Law Blog

Law has been around for a long time and the development and history of law is an important part of our cultural heritage. However little is known about it (compared to, for example, military history) and I don’t think it is studied much nowadays.

English coat of armsMy husband, when I said this to him, gave a hollow laugh and said that there was probably a reason for this. Meaning of course that it is boring.

But the history of law is not really boring. It seems boring as the documents it is recorded in are hard if not impossible for us to read nowadays (unless you understand Latin and Norman French – which incidentally I don’t), and even modern textbooks are not an easy read, due largely to to the unfamiliar terminology involved.

The study of law, on its own, divorced from its application, is always dull and dusty. It is when you look at what people do with it, that it suddenly becomes fascinating.

Law and the history of law is really all about people. The mad bonkers things that they argue about, and their deviousness in trying to outwit authority. The history of law is also the story of the King (or occasionally the Queen) trying to impose their will on the people, and the people trying with equal determination to avoid this and do things their own way. Preferably without paying taxes.

To me the history of law is far more interesting than all those dreary battles we had to learn about at school.

I write another blog called the Landlord Law Blog, and I have recently finished a series Foundations in Landlord and Tenant Law. In writing that series I touched on legal history from time to time. In my research I found all sorts of other interesting ‘nuggets’ which did not really fit into the foundation series, but which I still wanted to write about. So the idea of a history series was born.

“There won’t be an audience for it” warned my husband. But I am just going to ignore him (which is, anyway, what husbands are for). I can’t be the only person who finds legal history interesting.

So I am starting on a journey. A journey through English legal history. Starting (more or less) at the time of the Norman conquest and moving (more or less) forward chronologically, with jumps backwards and forwards In time as the fancy takes me.

My guide will be the excellent An Introduction to English Legal History by JH Baker, which I was introduced to long ago when I did my law degree. I also have all the resources of the internet at my finger tips, to review and research. And of course, find pictures.

I don’t claim to be any sort of expert, and the posts won’t be learned dissertations, just my own interpretation and comments, based on a bit of background reading. I want to look particularly at the development of legal ideas which eventually came to form part of our modern landlord and tenant law, and at the original meaning of words which have legal connotations today.

And to shed a bit of light into a little known area of our history, and tell a few funny stories.

If any reason is necessary for this blog, other than the fact that the suject is interesting in itself, it is that a study of the past helps us better understand the present, and may also give us greater resources to glimpse into the future.

English coat of arms picture from Wikipedia commons

Please feel free to add a comment. All comments are moderated but this is just to make sure no spam gets through. 7 Responses to Introduction to the History of Law Blog
  1. ObiterJNo Gravatar
    September 20, 2011 | 5:21 pm

    Brilliant. I am delighted to find that someone else is interested enough in this to actually write something. I have a couple of posts on my blog and will supply links in the hope that are of some assistance. Good luck with all of this. There may (or may not) be a vast audience but this is a neglected topic and much of value could be learned from it and still applied today.

  2. ObiterJNo Gravatar
    September 20, 2011 | 5:29 pm
  3. Tessa SheppersonNo Gravatar
    September 20, 2011 | 8:54 pm

    Thank you! Its something that has always interested me.

    Quite a few people have come out of the woodwork and confessed that actually they do find it quite interesting, so maybe a few of them will read the blog.

    I enjoy doing it anyway. Having a blog to write gives me an reason and excuse to do the research.

  4. Hari RamanathanNo Gravatar
    September 21, 2011 | 9:13 am

    Thanks so much for dedicating a blog to a most fascinating subject! I can assure you that there is at least one person who doesn’t find legal history boring at all. Unfortunately as a student of law who came through the conversion course process, I never had any exposure to the historical aspects of our legal system besides what I discovered for myself in my spare time – much of which I didn’t have. However I did borrow a copy of Baker’s book during my LPC and read as much of it as I could. I found it very difficult to understand and have since been looking for resources that explained the difficult bits in modern terminology. I like the fact your blog will follow a largely chronological order, as that will help structure the history in my mind as well. I think it’s great there will be a bias towards land law. After all, it’s not equity, trusts, employment, intellectual property and other types of law even existed at that time. It was basically just constitutional, tort, criminal and land law to begin with.

  5. Hari RamanathanNo Gravatar
    September 21, 2011 | 9:15 am

    Oh and ecclesiastical/canon law!

  6. Mira Tichenor
    December 13, 2011 | 8:45 am

    Mira Tichenor…

    Im obliged for the blog.Really looking forward to read more. Want more….

  7. gazNo Gravatar
    January 18, 2014 | 6:29 pm

    I have no affiliation with the law, lawyers or even a college or university. In fact my learning stopped when I was 16 from a bog standard comprehensive. And believe me, there was nothing comprehensive about it. I came to the law by way of the “Freeman on the land” theories, which you may or may not of heard about. I know many in the law society have been informed :). I must say, that I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your site. It is very concise, clear and uncomplicated. Well done!

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