Development of law
The oldest legal
system we know of is the Egyptian system developed around 3000 BC,
elements of which were still in force under the Roman occupation three
thousand years later; the most complete early system is the Code of
Hamurabi, operative in Babylon (Iraq) in about 1750 BC. However, the
likelihood is that primitive legal systems existed much longer ago than
Law in primitive
Even in primitive
tribal societies with no Parliament and no courts there was some sort of
law, usually based on ancient custom and the authority of the chief, the
elders or the religious leader, and often backed by the supposed commands
and wrath of the tribal gods. A victim or his family with the approval of
the tribe avenged wrongs against individuals, such as murder, theft,
adultery, or failure to repay a debt. Wrongs against the tribe as a
whole were met with group sanctions including ridicule and hostility, and
sometimes the ritual sacrifice or expulsion of the wrongdoer.
the growth of Roman Law
gradually evolved into territorial societies, and states of a recognisably
modern kind began to emerge. Each of these states developed its own legal
system, some of which had a lasting influence: Roman law in particular
remained important for many centuries, and many English universities still
teach it today. It is the principle source of law in Scotland and Europe.
As society develops
so does the role of law
As the modern
society developed the people formed larger groups, towns were formed,
governmental structures emerged, and modern law began to be necessary.
(Roman philosopher born 106 BC) in "De Republica" made important
contributions regarding natural law that were overshadowed by later
Following the chaos
of varying provincial and local customs that had taken form during the
Middle Ages national legislation and national codes were introduced.
involvement in the law
recently government was seldom concerned in matters affecting the freedom
of the individual outside the realms of criminal law, taxation and, to a
lesser extent, property rights.
complexity of life has necessarily led governments, to intervene in many
aspects of our daily lives. Legislation now authorises direct executive
intervention in our education, our food, our transport, our health, our
use of our property, what is shown on television or broadcast, and a host
of other areas.
morality and justice
Now parliament and
government produce large amounts of formal law.
remains important because of the common law that they develop.
such as condemnation of the culprit and sympathy enforce moral obligations
for the victim, reinforced by religious teaching and by the media.
The function and
role of law are dynamic
There are differing
views of how law maintains social order, provides for the settlement of
disputes, upholds morality, equality of subjects and by social engineering
promotes the smooth running of society.
perspective and fundamental human rights are currently major factors in
the function and role of society today in a way that they have never been
The study of law,
has taxed the minds of practitioners and theorist alike for many
centuries. Problems such as law as legislation, law as in the
common law, law as in natural law, law as in custom, law as the psychology
of human action, and today law as a function of constitutional change,
make defining what law is, as difficult as ever.