S. A. Reilly

This was written to see what laws have been in existence for a long time and therefore have proven their success in maintaining a stable society. It's purpose is also to see the historical context in which our legal doctrines were derived. It looks at the inception of the common law system, the origin of the jury system, the meaning in context of the Magna Carta provisions, the emergence of attorneys, and the formation of probate law from church origins.

This book is a primer. One may read it without prior knowledge in history or law, although it will be more meaningful to lawyers than to non-lawyers. Since it defines terms unique to English legal history, it may serve as a good introduction on which to base further reading in English legal history. The meaning of some terms in King Aethelbert's code in Chapter 1 are unknown or inexact.

The chapters are sequential. The title of each chapter in the Table of Contents includes the time period covered. The title of each chapter denotes an important legal development of that time period.

Each chapter is divided into three sections: The Times, The Law, and Judicial Procedure. The law section is the central section. It describes the law governing the behavior and conduct of the populace. It includes law of that time by which people lived which is the same, similar, or a building block to the law of today. In earlier times this is both statutory law and the common law of the court. The Magna Carta, which is quoted in Chapter 7, is the first statute of the Statutes at Large. The law sections of Chapter 7 - 13 mainly quote or paraphrase most of these statutes or the Statutes of the Realm. Excluded are statutes which do not help us understand the development of our law, such as statutes governing Wales after its conquest and statutes on succession rights to the throne.

The first section of each chapter: The Times, sets a background and context in which to better understand the laws. The usual subject matter of history such as battles, famines, periods of corruption, and international relations are omitted as not helping to understand the process of civilization and development of the law in the nation of England.

The last section of each chapter: Judicial Procedure, describes the process of applying the law and trying cases for the relevant time period. It also contains some examples of cases.

For clarity and easy comparison, amounts of money expressed in pounds or marks have been converted to the smaller denominations of shillings and pence. There are twenty shillings in a pound. A mark in silver is two thirds of a pound.

The sources and reference books from which information was obtained are listed in the bibliography instead of being contained in tedious footnotes.


A Vassar College faculty member once dedicated her book to her
students, but for whom it would have been written much earlier.
This book "Our Legal Heritage" is dedicated to the faculty of
Vassar College, without whom it would never have been written.

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