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.
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, where I wrote a series called 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 subject 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.