Common law

Legal systems of the world. Common law countries are in several shades of pink, corresponding to variations in common law systems.
A view of Westminster Hall in the Palace of Westminster, London, early 19th century.
A 16th century edition of Corpus Juris Civilis Romani (1583)
USCA: some annotated volumes of the official compilation and codification of federal statutes.
The Constitution of India is the longest written constitution for a country, containing 395 articles, 12 schedules, numerous amendments and 117,369 words.
Sir William Blackstone as illustrated in his Commentaries on the Laws of England.

Body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of being stated in written opinions.

- Common law

500 related topics


Primary and secondary legislation

Primary legislation and secondary legislation (the latter also called delegated legislation or subordinate legislation ) are two forms of law, created respectively by the legislative and executive branches of governments in representative democracies.

Iustitia ("Lady Justice") is a symbolic personification of the coercive power of a tribunal: a sword representing state authority, scales representing an objective standard and a blindfold indicating that justice should be impartial.

Civil law systems are almost universal in Europe (with the exceptions of England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which are Common Law systems), as well as in Central and South America, much of Africa and Asia.

Civil law (legal system)

Legal system originating in mainland Europe and adopted in much of the world.

Legal systems of the world. Civil law based systems are in turquoise.

The civil law system is often contrasted with the common law system, which originated in medieval England, whose intellectual framework historically came from uncodified judge-made case law, and gives precedential authority to prior court decisions.

Legal opinion

In certain jurisdictions a written explanation by a judge or group of judges that accompanies an order or ruling in a case, laying out the rationale and legal principles for the ruling.

Iustitia ("Lady Justice") is a symbolic personification of the coercive power of a tribunal: a sword representing state authority, scales representing an objective standard and a blindfold indicating that justice should be impartial.

Published opinions of courts are also collectively referred to as case law, and constitute in the common law legal systems one of the major sources of law.

British Empire

Composed of the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates, and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states.

A replica of the Matthew, John Cabot's ship used for his second voyage to the New World
African slaves working in 17th-century Virginia, by an unknown artist, 1670
Fort St. George was founded at Madras in 1639.
Robert Clive's victory at the Battle of Plassey established the East India Company as a military as well as a commercial power.
British territories in the Americas, 1763–1776, extending much further than the Thirteen Colonies on the Atlantic coast
James Cook's mission was to find the alleged southern continent Terra Australis.
The Battle of Waterloo in 1815 ended in the defeat of Napoleon and marked the beginning of Pax Britannica.
An 1876 political cartoon of Benjamin Disraeli (1804–1881) making Queen Victoria Empress of India. The caption reads "New crowns for old ones!"
British cavalry charging against Russian forces at Balaclava in 1854
The Rhodes Colossus—Cecil Rhodes spanning "Cape to Cairo"
A poster urging men from countries of the British Empire to enlist
The British Empire at its territorial peak in 1921
George V with British and Dominion prime ministers at the 1926 Imperial Conference
During the Second World War, the Eighth Army was made up of units from many different countries in the British Empire and Commonwealth; it fought in North African and Italian campaigns.
About 14.5 million people lost their homes as a result of the partition of India in 1947.
Eden's decision to invade Egypt in 1956 revealed Britain's post-war weaknesses.
British decolonisation in Africa. By the end of the 1960s, all but Rhodesia (the future Zimbabwe) and the South African mandate of South West Africa (Namibia) had achieved recognised independence.
The fourteen British Overseas Territories
Cricket being played in India. Sports developed in Britain or the former empire continue to be viewed and played.

As a result, its constitutional, legal, linguistic, and cultural legacy is widespread.

Procedural law

Procedural law, adjective law, in some jurisdictions referred to as remedial law, or rules of court, comprises the rules by which a court hears and determines what happens in civil, lawsuit, criminal or administrative proceedings.

A trial at the Old Bailey in London as drawn by Thomas Rowlandson and Augustus Pugin for Ackermann's Microcosm of London (1808–11).

The rules are designed to ensure a fair and consistent application of due process (in the U.S.) or fundamental justice (in other common law countries) to all cases that come before a court.


Legally enforceable agreement that creates, defines, and governs mutual rights and obligations among its parties.

Bill of sale of a male slave and a building in Shuruppak, Sumerian tablet, circa 2600 BC
The Carbolic Smoke Ball offer
A contract from the Tang dynasty that records the purchase of a 15-year-old slave for six bolts of plain silk and five Chinese coins
German marriage contract, 1521 between {{Interlanguage link multi|Gottfried Werner von Zimmern|de}} and Apollonia von Henneberg-Römhild
Thomas Boylston to Thomas Jefferson, May 1786, Maritime Insurance Premiums
Fire insurance contract of 1796

The various systems of contract law can broadly be split between common law jurisdictions, civil law jurisdictions, and mixed law jurisdictions which combine elements of both common and civil law.

Codification (law)

Process of collecting and restating the law of a jurisdiction in certain areas, usually by subject, forming a legal code, i.e. a codex of law.

Hardcover of the 1917 Code of Canon Law

In common law systems, such as that of English law, codification is the process of converting and consolidating judge-made law into statute law.


Legal systems of the world. Common law countries are in several shades of pink, corresponding to variations in common law systems.

At common law, damages are a remedy in the form of a monetary award to be paid to a claimant as compensation for loss or injury.

Equity (law)

Particular body of law that was developed in the English Court of Chancery.

The Court of Chancery, London, in the early 19th century

It exists in domestic law, both in civil law and in common law systems, and in international law.

Court of Chancery

The Court of Chancery in the reign of King George I
Edward I, during whose reign the chancellor's jurisdiction was established
Westminster Hall, where the Court sat almost continuously from the reign of Edward III until its dissolution in 1875
Lord Ellesmere, who worked to maintain the Chancery's ability to override the common law courts as lord chancellor
The Court of Chancery in the early 19th century, sitting in Lincoln's Inn Old Hall
Thomas Pemberton attacked the Six Clerks in Parliament and successfully had their positions abolished.
John Romilly, the last Master of the Rolls to sit in the Court of Chancery

The Court of Chancery was a court of equity in England and Wales that followed a set of loose rules to avoid the slow pace of change and possible harshness (or "inequity") of the common law.