History of Common Law and Equity

Prior to the existence of England, the nations around the British Isles were made up by a series of Isles occupied by the Celtic people. The Romans pulled out in the 400's and then a German invasion occurred (Anglo's and the Saxons) In these Anglo Saxon kingdoms, the laws began to develop. The first laws were the laws of Kent. Laws of doom - attempt to mimic the roman system. Features of Anglo Saxon Law Moots - 100 people would decide whether someone was guilty and decide punish. The Wager of Law - a witness system.

Trial by ordeal - e. g.burn you and if you blister you are a liar. Water - if you float you are a liar. Wager of bread - choke on the bread you are a liar. Distress - Take the goods of the person who wronged you. Compensation for injuries. Systems of Manorial - the lord would be responsible for administering justice for that area. No understanding of the mental elements of crime (e. g. intent). If something was wrong, then punishment occurred (even against animals). The Norman Invasion 900's - 11th century law became unified in the United Kingdom. Prince Harold (last Anglo Saxon high King of England).

The high king would be chosen by the Wee tan (? ), which was a kind of parliament of kings and nobles. Normally the most powerful kingdom was given the over lordship of the others (usually Wessex). Prior to 1066, there were 3 main Anglo-Saxon kingdoms (Wessex - most powerful). (Need to have a look at a map of the area before 1066). 1066 - The over-lordship of King Harold was wiped away by a Norman invasion. When Harold was given the Over Lord position, a number of others were claiming that they should be given the position - one of these was William.

On the basis of William obtaining a papal approval and the pope excommunicating Harold, William decided to invade England. Harold unfortunately had to fight off two invasions at the same time, one in the north (fighting Scandinavians at the Battle of Stamford Bridge which at the time was the largest military exercise in British History), which he won. Harold then had another 3 to 4 days (500km) to move to the south of England to fight the Normans. King Harold was defeated by the Normans (rumored to have scored an arrow in his eye). Why was the Norman Invasion so Important?

Established Sovereign Over-Lordship in William (Absolute Sovereignty was new). Therefore, instead of having little kingdoms that had there own rule, William took on the responsibility of making the law. William decreed to respect current laws, but would change them as desired. Very important concept - if you conquer a place, the laws stay the same and you get to keep the land. William had absolute beneficial title to the land. Remaining Lords would have to approach William if they wished to secure land - only then by swearing allegiance.

The Normans brought in their French brand of feudalism. Feudalism is the imposition of a particular social structure on a society based on a family model. The King is the father --> then there is massive pyramid where people are connected through family. Power in exchange for promise. Important for the consolidation of sovereignty. King Henry Henry had taken over England after a period of very terrible civil was under Steven and Matilda. He was important because of the way he consolidated legal power in England. How?

Firstly he tried to reduce the power of the church courts that thrived because the sovereign was consumed with issues relating to the civil war. The church had been exercising its power through the ecclesiastical courts/the cannon courts. Henry wanted to reduce the power of these courts. The pope had control over much of Europe. Therefore, there was a dispute between Henry and the pope. Henry formed the Kings Council that comprised the top minds and most powerful people in the country, whom he deputized to go and administer the law throughout the country (previously, the role of the Kings Council was completed by the General Eyre).

Henry was still the source of the law. Henry began to make proclamations whilst presiding over the Kings Council (e. g. the Assize of Clarendon - 1166). "If judgments are to be made, they should be done by twelve free men from the Council as well as 4 free men from the town". This later gave birth to the jury. Henry II Henry had three sons, Richard the Lionhart, John Lackland and Henry II. During Henry II's time, the disputes between the ecclesiastical courts and the secular courts blew up.

The archbishop of Canterbury, the top representative of the pope in England was Thomas A-Beckett. Through a series of disputes primarily over the authority of the church courts, Henry had many difficulties (who will rid me of this meddlesome priest), which resulted in 12 of Henry's knights murdering Thomas in the Cathedral. Henry had to appear repentant (walk around in sackcloth etc). One of the things that came out of this was the separation of clergymen from the authority of the secular courts.

In those days, virtually the only people that could read were clergymen - if you could read a passage from the bible, the ecclesiastical courts could try you. The ecclesiastical courts were very soft in their punishment - therefore lots of people began to learn how to read to escape the authority of the secular courts. Richard the Lionhearted After Henry II's death, Richard the Lionhearted was a very poor king who tended to go off and have wars in the holy land (which we are still paying for! ), and his brother, John Lackland became the King after his death.