History of Law

Alma Ahmad

What is law ?

Law are essentially a set of rule established and enforced by the government.

"The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom. For in all the states of created beings capable of law, where there is no law, there is no freedom."

John Locke

Roman Law

Roman law, in other words legal system of Ancient Roman law, was the first legal code that emphasized equality under the law. The Roman law consisted of legal developments which occurred before 7th century AD. Byzantine Emperor Justine codified 1000 years of Roman laws which served as a basis for legal practice in Europe. The twelve tables were the earliest attempt by the Roman’s to create code of law. Before the twelve tables, the private laws that were made from the Roman civil law were only for Roman citizens and mostly based on religion. The laws were undeveloped for attributes of strict formalism and symbolism. Between 201 to 27 BC, the law started to become more flexible to match the needs of the people of that time and focused on a person’s legal status. In Roman law, only Roman citizens had civil political rights. The laws for slavery were completely different compared to a free man‘s law. The masters of slaves had full control on their servants. If a master desired, he could sell his slave or give the slave for pawn, but did not have the authority to harm or kill the slave. If a slave was injured, a master could initiate legal proceedings and demand protection. Masters did have the right to give their slaves property, if they wanted, and the slaves could use the property as a tool to become a free man. In the Roman law, slaves did not have families and were prevented from having a marital status.

Some punishments for the Roman law included:

  • If you were to betray someone, you would be stripped naked and with the head held up by a fork, whipped to death.
  • Beheading
  • Strangled in prison
  • Burying a person alive
  • Throwing a criminal into the river

The Rule of Law/ King John 1199-1216

King John signed the Magna Carta on June 1215, which established the Rule of Law. This stated, that all people, including the king had to follow the same sets of rules. The Magna Carta was the most important document for England at that time. This document was a series of promises between the king and his subjects. The king would govern England and deal with its people according to the customs of feudal law. The Magna Carta came into use because the people wanted King John to stop abusing his powers and hurting the citizens of England. King John was doing this by... At that time, King John owned a territory in France and the barons (Nobel men of the government) promised him money and men for his army. The feudal system was working, because before doing anything, the king would ask the barons for raising taxes or getting more men for his army. Eventually, the king got greedy and wanted money and more men for his army. Hence, the king raised the taxes and got more men for his army without telling the barons, which was against the feudal system. Eventually, the king lost his property in France, and the Magna Carta came into use because of this. There were 63 clauses which can be found on this document here. Magna Carta was dived into sections. The first one discussed about the position of the Catholic Church in England. Many of the clauses concerned England’s legal system. Everyone has access to courts and the cost of money should not be an issue, if someone wants to take a problem to the court. No freeman will be imprisoned or punished without first going through the proper legal system. The word “free man” was later replaced to “no one” to include everyone. Free man was someone who was not a slave. The last section deals with how the Magna Carta would be enforced in England. The Magna Carta stated, that if the king was to go against it, they could use force if they felt necessary, to make him follow the rules.

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Napoleonic Code

The Napoleonic Code was a new set of rules for French people. This code is also referred as the French civil code. It was established under napoleon in 1804. This was not the first legal code to be established in a European country with civil legal systems. It was the first modern legal code to be adopted. It also strongly influenced the law of many countries formed during or after the Napoleonic wars. This code was a major step in replacing the previous work of the feudal system. The Napoleonic Code was not drawn from the earlier French laws but instead from Justinian’s sixth century. This code allowed freedom of religion. Napoleon set out to reform the French legal after the French Revolution. That was because the old feudal and royal laws were starting to get confusing for people. Before the Code, France did not have a single set of laws. During the Revolution, the last extent of feudalism was abolished. Many different laws used in parts of France were to be replaced by a single legal code. A fresh start was made after Napoleon's coming to power in 1799.

Punishments for breaking the code:

· Murder shall be punished with death

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The Code of Hammurabi

The code of Hammurabi was established in Iraq in 1792 to 1750 BCE. This code believed in one thing and that was “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” The Hammurabi code focused more on family, criminal, labor, and property. There was a list of 282 laws that Hammurabi made himself with the help of his kingdom.

Some of the rules and punishments included:

· If anyone is committing a robbery and I caught, then he shall be put to death.laves if u wi

· If a son strike’s his father, his hands shall be hewn off.

· If a man knock put the teeth of his equal, his teeth shall be knocked out.

Hammurabi's said this in his own words "If a man has destroyed the eye of a man of the gentleman class, they shall destroy his eye .... If he has destroyed the eye of a commoner ... he shall pay one mina of silver. If he has destroyed the eye of a gentleman's slave ... he shall pay half the slave's price." From reading this you are able to tell that back then the laws did not fit everyone equally but depending on their social status. There were still some laws that protected the slaves which was that you could not kill slave just because you wanted to.

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How have these laws affected the laws in the 21'st century?

The Code of Hammurabi, Roman law, Napoleonic Code, and the Magna Carta has affected Canadian law many times. We believe in equality under the law which means that no one is above and that everyone has the same rules. We got the idea of equality from the Roman law and Magna Carta. These were first two types of law that started this. The Code of Hammurabi thought us on fairness “An eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.” Last but not least the code of Napoleonic destroyed feudalism in the country because this was the first law to abolish the feudalism.

Compare and Contrast

  • The Roman code and the Manga Carta both these laws emphized on equality under the law.
  • The Napoleonic Code and the Magna Carta were laws made to stop feudalism.
  • All of these laws from different time periods did not protect slaves.
  • The Code of Hammurabi had more harsh punshinents then the otero laws.
  • Magna Carta law was forced on to the government while the Roman Law was a choice by the government
  • The Roman law and The Code of Hammurabi laws would change depending on persons social status.


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"Magna Carta Transcript." Magna Carta Transcript. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.

"Meeting at Runnymede." Magna Carta. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.

"Napoleonic Code." Princeton University. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.

"Roman Punishment." Roman Punishment. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.