History of Law

As a system of rules, the law regulates behavior through governmental or social institutions. It ensures that a community or people follow the will of the state. If enforced by the state, it is created by a collective legislature. The executive branch of government also creates laws through regulations and decrees.

Private citizens also create contracts that bind the parties legally. A constitution can influence the formation of laws. A law shapes the society, history, economics, and politics in different ways. It acts as a mediator between the people.

Civil law jurisdictions consist of a central body or a legislature that consolidates and codifies the laws. On the other hand, common law systems have binding laws through a judge-made precedent. Previously, religious laws played an essential role in ending secular disputes. Actually, even up to now, the Islamic Sharia law is the major legal system in Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Areas of Adjudication of the Law

  • Criminal Law handles conducts harmful to social order. The guilty party may be fined or imprisoned.
  • Civil law deals with the settlement of disputes between entities or individuals.

Legal History

In 3000 BC, ancient Egyptian law included a civil code with twelve books. It represented tradition, social equality, rhetorical speech, and impartiality. In 222nd century BC, Ur-Nammu, a Sumerian ruler, created the first law, consisting of casuistic statements. In 1760 BC, King Hammurabi created the Babylonian law or Codex Hammurabi in stone.

By 1280 BC, the Old Testament became moral imperatives for a society to be good. Athens, in 8th century BC, became the first city to include a wide range of its citizens, except women and the slaves. But, it did not have law back then. Athens relied on custom, human decree, and divine law. The ancient Greek law had primary constitutional innovations that helped develop democracy.

Greek philosophy influenced Roman law heavily, although the detailed rules showed a high level of sophistication because professional jurists developed them. The adaptation of law during the Roman Empire helped people to cope with growing social situations. Under Justinian I and Theodosius II, Roman law went through major codification. During the Dark Ages, custom and case law replaced these codes. In the 11th century, medieval legal scholars rediscovered Roman law when they started their research on Roman codes. They adapted the concepts.

In Medieval England, the royal courts created a body of precedent that evolved into the common law. Merchants were able to trade with universal standards of practice through Law Merchant, which was the forerunner of the modern commercial law. Law Merchant emphasized the alien ability of property and the freedom to contract. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the German and Napoleonic Codes were the most dominant.

Ancient India had independent schools of legal practice and theory. Around 100 AD, the Manusmriti and the Arthashastra were India’s foundational treatises. The central philosophy of Manusmriti revolved around pluralism and tolerance. When the British Empire annexed India, common law supplanted Islamic Law and Hindu tradition. Also, Hong Kong, Singapore, Brunei, and Malaysia adopted this common law.


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