A Natural History of the Common Law

Kobo ebook | December 6, 2003

byS. F. C. Milsom

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How does law come to be stated as substantive rules, and then how does it change? In this collection of discussions from the James S. Carpentier Lectures in legal history and criticism, one of Britain's most acclaimed legal historians S. F. C. Milsom focuses on the development of English common law -- the intellectually coherent system of substantive rules that courts bring to bear on the particular facts of individual cases -- from which American law was to grow. Milsom discusses the differences between the development of land law and that of other kinds of law and, in the latter case, how procedural changes allowed substantive rules first to be stated and then to be circumvented. He examines the invisibility of early legal change and how adjustment to conditions was hidden behind such things as the changing meaning of words.

Milsom points out that legal history may be more prone than other kinds of history to serious anachronism. Nobody ever states his assumptions, and a legal writer, addressing his contemporaries, never provided a glossary to warn future historians against attributing their own meanings to his words and therefore their own assumptions to his world. Formal continuity has enabled nineteenth-century assumptions to be carried back, in some respects as far back as the twelfth century. This book brings together Milsom's efforts to understand the uncomfortable changes that lie beneath that comforting formal surface. Those changes were too large to have been intended by anyone at the time and too slow to be perceived by historians working within the short periods now imposed by historical convention. The law was made not by great men making great decisions but by man-sized men unconcerned with the future and thinking only about their own immediate everyday difficulties. King Henry II, for example, did not intend the changes attributed to him in either land law or criminal law; the draftsman of De Donis did not mean to create the entail; nobody ever dreamed up a fiction with intent to change the law.

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How does law come to be stated as substantive rules, and then how does it change? In this collection of discussions from the James S. Carpentier Lectures in legal history and criticism, one of Britain's most acclaimed legal historians S. F. C. Milsom focuses on the development of English common law -- the intellectually coherent system...

S. F. C. Milsom is professor emeritus of law at Cambridge University and the author of many books, including Historical Foundations of the Common Law and Legal Framework of English Feudalism. The recipient of the Harvard Law School's Ames Prize and the Royal Society of Arts' Swiney Prize, Milsom is past president of the Selden Socie...

other books by S. F. C. Milsom

Historical Foundations of the Common Law
Historical Foundations of the Common Law

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Format:Kobo ebookPublished:December 6, 2003Publisher:Columbia University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0231503490

ISBN - 13:9780231503495

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

I. Making Law: Lawyers and Laymen
II. Changing Law
III. Management, Custom, and Law
IV. History and Lost Assumptions
Notes
Index

Editorial Reviews

In this book the greatest living English legal historian sums up a lifetime of work. Professor Milsom here makes explicit what has been implicit in much of his previous writing: the mechanisms by which the English common law developed. Students of the law and of its history will welcome the clarity and vigor with which Milsom expounds his general ideas and will need to think long and hard about the extent to which these mechanisms also account for the development of Roman law and, perhaps, other legal systems as well.