Essay On Sources Of English Law

Four Main Sources Of English Law

English law refers to the legal system that England and Wales, Ireland and Commonwealth countries including the United States apart from Louisiana utilize. The law dates its origin from 1925 during the era of Anglo-Saxons customs and the British Empire, who developed and spread it to their former colonies. The sources of the English law are of utmost importance as they are the foundation of legal systems of various countries. In the attempt to understand the English Laws, its sources are of vital significance to discuss.

The first source is Common law, a key component of English law. Its foundation is on decisions made by judges of various courts and developed by tribunals and courts. The law operates under the cardinal rule that treating similar situations differently is absurd. Thus, judges in their capacities, make judgments that become a legal precedent for future cases with similar circumstances as a sign of equivalence in all jurisdictions. Judges reach at this decision by relying on previous cases, precedents set by other judges, their knowledge, and common sense. Since judges are considered elite and bright members of the society, the law enjoys significant confidence. Nevertheless, not all court decisions are binding on other courts as courts such as the Supreme Court have more authority than other courts.

Statutory law is the principal source of English law. It comes into existence through Parliament, enjoying the sovereignty to make or unmake any laws they deem necessary, and that pushes the political plans of the government. It does so through primary legislation known as the ACTS of Parliament or secondary legislation, which supersedes the authority of the judiciary. Parliament makes a law by first engaging in a debate, a vote of majority members decides the statutes that the government then observes as the law. For instance, the review of legislation of punishment is under the statutory law. Murder under the common law attracted a penalty of death. However, Parliament instituted an amendment that reduced the punishment to life in prison with exceptional circumstances when aspects such as motive, malice and the psychological state of the accused are established.

The European Union Law is another key source of English Law, which denotes to treaties and legislation applied to European countries. The law comprises of regulations, treaties, and directives of significant importance presently and in the future, concluded by the European Union, which has an implication directly or indirectly to the European Union and its member countries. The treaties provide for directives on the governing of European nations, advice on the operation of legal systems towards metropolitan states and forms the EU legislature. Moreover, it permits the adoption of legal acts that perpetuate the meeting of objectives. Member countries of the EU are anticipated to obey these laws that serve as secondary EU laws.

The European Convention is the fourth source of English Law. Before 2000, the public outlook of the Convention was an outside influence of the law whose authority was persuasive. However, the Human Rights Act of 1998 changed all these by stating that any court or tribunal that heard a matter that relates to the Convention, it has to follow the Convention’s decision on the handling of the issue. The Convention principally deals with two conventions namely; Conventions of child abduction that seeks to stop the international abduction of children and the European convention on Human Rights that protects the rights of individuals residing in Europe.

The sources of English law makes it an all-inclusive, multipart and the most efficient system in the world. It works harmoniously with other legal systems of the world, thereby making it crucial and noteworthy worldwide.

Not to be confused with Sources of law.

The Sources of English Law (as it is sometimes known) is an essay written by Heinrich Brunner and translated by others.

In 1909, it was described as a "valuable survey of the sources and literature of English law".[1] In 1914, Winfield called it a "valuable" guide "to the materials of English law".[2]

Editions, reprints and translations[edit]

This essay was published under the title Ueberblick über die Geschichte der französischen, normannischen, und englischen Rechtsquellen in 1877 in the third edition of Encyclopädie der Rechtwissenschaft, by Franz von Holtzendorf, at pages 229 to 267, as Part II, section 4. It was reprinted in 1882, in the fourth edition of that work, at pages 277 to 317; and in 1890, in the fifth edition, at pages 303 to 347. It was omitted from the sixth edition published in 1904.

It was translated into English by W Hastie and published under the title The Sources of the Law of England at Edinburgh in 1888. This publication does not disclose the edition from which it is translated.

A translation by Ernst Freund was published under the title The Sources of English Law in volume 2 of Select Essays in Anglo-American Legal History, at pages 7 to 52. The notes to this volume say that the version contained therein is "revised, enlarged and recast" by Brunning, who has omitted so much of the essay as relates to Norman and French sources.[3] This version was published, "with some further revision", in its German dress, under the title Geschichte der Englischen Rechtsquellen im Grundiss in Leipzig in 1909 by Duncker and Humblot. This version has been described as follows:

It is indispensable to any student of English history who wishes to make himself rapidly acquainted with the latest expert estimate of the varied materials with which the legal historian has to deal. We find here, for instance, the best succinct account of Dr. Liebermann's work on Anglo-Saxon law, with references to his numerous articles in legal and other periodicals. Another of Dr. Brunner's encyclopaedia articles, that on the 'Sources of Norman Law,' is usefully added as an appendix. The learned author does not leave much scope to the critic, but he takes, we think, rather too seriously Hoveden's loose description of Duke Henry as 'justiciar of England' in the last days of Stephen's reign.[1]


  • Heinrich Brunner. Translated by William Hastie. The Sources of the Law of England: An Historical Introduction to the Study of English Law. 12mo. T & T Clark. Edinburgh. 1888. Digitized copies [1][2][3] from Internet Archive.
  • Heinrich Brunner. Translated by Ernst Freund. The Sources of English Law. Reprinted from volume two of Select Essays in Anglo-American Legal History. Little, Brown and Company. Boston. 1908. Digitized copy from Internet Archive.
  • Geschichte der englischen Rechtsquellen im Grundriss: mit einem Anhang über die normanischen Rechtsquellen. 8vo. Leipzig. 1909.
  • Parow. "Literaturbericht". Historiche Zeitschrift. Bd 105, H 3, 1910. Pages 642 - 643. JSTOR.

External links[edit]


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