A Historical Introduction to English Law: Genesis of the Common Law

Due to be published by Cambridge University Press in 2023, this new textbook for prospective and new law students (including those studying the SQE) provides a prequel to their legal studies, showing where the common law came from and why those stories are important.


There are some stories that need to be told anew to every generation. This book tells one such story. It explores the historical origins of the common law and explains why that story needs to be understood by all who study or come into contact with English law. The book functions as the prequel to what students learn during their law degrees or for the SQE. It can be read in preparation for, or as part of, modules introducing the study of English law or as a starting point for specialist modules on legal history or aspects of legal history. This book will not only help students understand and contextualise their study of the current law but it will also show them that the options they have to change the law are greater than they might assume from just studying the current law.

The message of this book is that by studying the history of law we can see how many of the ideas and institutions that we think of as being fixed are nothing of the sort. A historical perspective shows us how legal ideas and institutions are the product of their times and have not always been the same as they are now. A historical approach shows us the roads not taken and reveals that the development of English law is often far from planned. Legal ideas and institutions have not always been as they are today and so do not have to be as they are now in the future. A historical approach can therefore subvert assumptions that we have of the law and of law reform. This is designed to be the first book you read on the history of English law but not the last. It is designed to highlight the importance of the historical study of law, to whet the appetite and to introduce the reader to the wider literature.