What Is Law?

History Of Law

gavel on bookBrad Murray is the author – Rules that governments of nations make are referred to as laws. They act as guidelines as how you should conduct yourself in society. Laws are enforced through public agencies, unlike the rules of morality. You may like a law or you may not, but if you break a law, a fine may be slapped on you or sent to jail.

Laws became necessary ever since people started to live together in a society. This is because disputes arise even in well ordered societies. Law helps to amicable settle disputes to ensure a peaceful and safe society.

In addition to controlling your conduct, laws are essential to implement social policies such as providing compensation to workers who get injured on the job, healthcare, student loans, etc. Laws also serve to ensure that powerful people do not take undue advantage of the weaker section of the population. There are public and private law. Whereas the public law deals with matters that impact the society, private or civil law addresses issues concerned with relationship between two individuals.

A Brief History of Law

There is a close link between the history of law and development of civilizations. The Egyptian law dates back to 3000 BC. The civil code of ancient Egyptian law, based on Ma’at concept, had as many as twelve volumes. The first law code consisting of casuistic statements was formulated by Ur-Nammu, Sumerian ruler, by 22nd century BC.

The Babylonian law was further developed by King Hammurabi around 1760BC. He codified and inscribed it in stone. He also displayed copies of the code all over the kingdom as stelae.

The Old Testament provided the moral guidelines for a good society. Athens was the first society based on citizenry, but excluded the slave class and women. The ancient city did not have a word for law and hence had divine law, human decree and custom. The Greek law contributed greatly in developing the democracy.

Greek philosophy had a great influence on Roman law. However, the rules were very sophisticated as professional jurists were responsible for developing it. Theodosius II and Justinian codified Roman law to deal with the situations between rise and fall of the Roman Empire. During the period of dark ages, the codes were replaced by case and custom law, but the medieval legal experts rediscovered Roman law and started adapting the concepts. Medieval England developed the code which over time came to be known as the common law.

For the purpose of conducting trade, Law Merchant was formulated and it was applicable all over Europe. The Law Merchant is the precursor to the modern commercial law. The 18th and 19th centuries saw a growth in nationalism and countries started incorporating the Law Merchant into its civil codes.

China and India in the ancient times had traditions of law that were distinctly different. The fundamental legal guidance in India was provided by the Arthashastra compiled during 100 AD and the Manusmrithi during the period between 100 and 300 AD. When India was annexed by the British, the Hindu tradition and Islamic law were superseded by the common law.
Among East Asian countries, Japan was the first to modernize its legal system on the lines of the western countries. Japan adopted some aspects of French law and a lot of German Civil Code. The traditional law of China came to be westernized during the end of Ch’ing dynasty. There were six private law codes on the basis of the Japanese version of German law. As of now, only the Taiwanese law has some resemblance with the codifications of that era.

PS: Here are some links that I feel can be referred to:-

http://www.attorneygates.com/images/introlawnc.pdf

http://www.historyoflaw.info/

http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/dept-min/pub/just/02.html

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