The History of the Development of Common Law is Rooted in British Law.
The law that most people experience, or are aware of, has come to be through the development of common law.
It is the law that, by its origins, is intended to protect and guide what was termed in old English, the common people; the general populace of society on a day-to-day basis.
It has developed and evolved over many centuries of history, and, by its own principles, continues to evolve today by its continual usage.
Being aware of one’s rights under the law means being aware of what is the current common law.
You will see reference to common in much of British or English terminology; commoners, the House of Commons, the common people, indeed, the term ‘common to all’.
Modern common law means having knowledge of British history, but more importantly recognizing the global ethic, “Do unto others as you would be done by”, the essential core of all law.
At the core of the law in all English speaking countries is English common law.
By the expansion of the British Empire, British law has touched many lands and consequently become the basis of the law in each of these territories.
The Precedent of Common Law
The development of Common Law has grown from those beginnings.
To know what the law is you have to know what the judges have decided, in the far past and more recent past.
The applicability of common law is sometimes questionable, when the judge is guided by a decision made many centuries ago.
The common law works by precedent, and if no significant decisions have been made to this particular aspect of the law for a long time, there may be some apparent facile or irrelevant judgment.
The basic training and education of a common law lawyer consists of volumes of reports of particular cases and their judgments.
Common Law Root: British History
The development of Common Law is deeply rooted in British history.
Britain, or Britannia, as it was known in its early history, comprised of what is known as England today, drawn together as one country by the Roman occupation.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, the population of Britain, Britons, moved mainly west, into what is now known as Wales, and on to Ireland, England was invaded by mainly German tribes called Angles and Saxons.
The law, at this time, consisted of the remnants of Roman law, combined with the inheritance of the invaders; more folk custom than law, and varying from place to place.
With the further invasion of William of Orange in 1066 AD, there was a concerted effort by this monarch to make a common law, using a system of judges who toured the country hearing cases and making consistent decisions.
Common People Common Law
So, in a nutshell, the development of Common Law depends on the common people.
The precedents made by judgments in previous cases become common law, and any future judgments will be consistent to what has gone before, unless there are unusual circumstances.
Any new decision, of course, becomes the new precedent.
For one’s own, and society’s benefit, we should be aware of common law as it stands.
To know our rights and those of others protects us all, and makes for peaceful living.