England in the Middle Ages

Common Law of Henry II

Court Systems

Were based on the principle that the rulings made by the King's courts were made according to the common custom of the realm, as opposed to decisions made in local and manorial courts which judged by provincial laws and customs. The crafting of English Common Law was begun in the reign of Henry II, who had foreign legal learning and instituted legal reform in England. These common laws have become the basis of the court systems of Britain, the USA, most of Canada, and other English-speaking countries.

Magna Carta

What was the Magna Carta?

The Magna Carta was signed in June 1215 between the barons of Medieval England and King John. "Magna Carta" is Latin and means "Great Charter". The Magna Carta was one of the most important documents of Medieval England.

It was signed (by the royal seal pictured below) between the barons and John at Runnymede near Windsor Castle. The document was a series of written promises between the king and his subjects that he, the king, would govern England and deal with its people according to the customs of feudal law. Magna Carta was an attempt by the barons to stop a king - in this case John - abusing his power with the people of England suffering.

Why was the Magna Carta so important?

The Magna Carta was important because it gave written recognition that the King's power was not absolute, but limited. This paved the way for a type of representative government in England called The Parliamentary to become the basis for the government.

How did The Magna Carta Effect the U.S. Government?

The Magna Carta served to lay the foundation for the evolution of parliamentary government and subsequent declarations of rights in Great Britain and the United States. In attempting to establish checks on the king's powers, this document asserted the right of "due process" of law. This concept, embraced by the leaders of the American Revolution, is embedded in the supremacy clause of the United States Constitution and enforced by the Supreme Court.