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Forum LockedChange and Continuity in 9th-12th Century England

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King John View Drop Down
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    Posted: 04-May-2009 at 05:00
There is a debate in English Legal History about when the Common Law starts.  Scholars like J.H. Baker and S.F.C Milsom argue that it started with Henry II, while scholars like Patrick Wormald argue that it started well before Henry II.  The purpose of this thread is to examine the question, was there legal continuity before Henry II or was he the point ante quod nihil (no continuity)? 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-May-2009 at 11:28
Personally I think the concept of common law goes back into Anglo-Saxon times and even earlier (among the Anglo-Saxons while still on the mainland and among the Celts of the islands).
 
But I need to think more about it before arguing the point.
 
However, as a quickie, Nora Chadwick has the following passage, talking about the representative assembly called by the Welsh king Hywel  Dda in the tenth century.
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It is implied that the laws were not the creation of any legislative body, but were the organised statement of the ancient customs of the race, which had hitherto been carried on by oral tradition.
 
I wold have thought in fact that the Normans at least initially led to a weakening of the principles of the common law. In Magna Charta for instance there is no reference to customary rights and liberties: the concessions the king is making are things he is granting his subjects, in a very French atmosphere, not rights he is restoring.
 
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Never believe anything until it has been officially denied - Sir Humphrey Appleby, 1984.
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