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This book provides a challenging interpretation of the emergence of the common law in Anglo-Norman England, against the background of the general development of legal institutions in Europe.
Beginning with a detailed discussion of the emergence of the central courts and the common law they administered, the author then traces the rise of the writ system and the growth of the jury system in twelfth-century England.
Thereafter Professor van Caenegem attempts to explain why English law is so different from that on the Continent and why this divergence began in the twelfth century, arguing that chance and chronological accident played the major part and led to the paradox of a feudal law of continental origin becoming one of the most typical manifestations of English life and thought.
First published in 1973, The Birth of the English Common Law has come to enjoy classical status, and in a new preface Professor van Caenegem discusses some recent developments in the study of English law under the Norman and earliest Angevin kings.