Viking Law

The very word “Law” is a Viking word. The Vikings had a legislative assembly and a court. They referred to it as the “ting”. This is where criminal were brought to stand trial. The “Kvird” were a group of people who established the facts of the case by stating what they thought was the truth. The number of people who acted as part of the jury was determined by the importance of the case. the “law-sayer” instructed the jury of the crime the offender had committed and explained the penalty of the Law. Much like our modern court systems, the Jury decided weather or not the accused was guilty. If found guilty, the accused was either fined or declared an outlaw. Civil cases were solved by other means, such as duels, where the “Gods” would decide the victor, ultimately deciding who was right. There were also other ordeals by which the Vikings found “the truth”. For example ordeal by fire, where one had to carry a hot piece of iron in ones hand, and walk 9 paces. Fire walking was also a way the Vikings sought out the truth. Fire walking involved walking 12 paces on hot iron to prove ones innocence, or to prove their claim (such as a claim to the throne) just.

Ancient Chinese Law

Background

  • Ancient Chinese law = any Chinese laws used up until 1911 when the last -imperial dynasty ended.
  • Differs greatly from common and civil law of western countries.
  • Incorporates Legalist and Confucian aspects of governing and social structure/ order.
  • The word law is translated loosely into two terms: The first, lü (律), means primarily “norm” or “model”. The second, fa (法), is usually rendered as “statute”.
  • Ancient Chinese law was made principally maintain ranks and orders amongst nobles.
  • Was also used to control society.
  • First ever record of Chinese law is the Kang Gao (康誥), a set of instructions issued by King Wu of Zhou.
  • Laws were coded and inscribed on bronze cauldrons and bamboo.

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Ancient Greek Law

Background

After the dark ages the Greeks had no official laws or courts.  Because there were numerous independent states that made up the Hellenic world (the Greek empire), there never was a system of law that was universally recognized by the nation as a whole.  Crimes and disputes were usually settled between families and because of this endless blood feuds resulted. It wasn’t until many years later that they began to establishing official laws and democratic courts. Continue reading “Ancient Greek Law”

Justinian Code

Background

  • The Romans considered laws to be an issue of societal custom as they evolved through time rather than absolutes
  • The Justinian Code was collected under the authority of Byzantine emperor Justinian I during the years between BCE 529 to 565; these were the first laws to be codified in Rome- this made them more accessible and comprehensible to laypeople
  • Laws applied only to citizens of the Roman Empire and were thus referred to as “ius civile” (civil law)
  • The Justinian Code (Corpus Juris Civilis) or “Body of Civil Law”, is a civil law code
    • provided basis for law in after the 11th century
    • was by later edited by Napoleon to form the basis of his laws
    • reflected past law and the opinions of esteemed Roman jurists, also contained new laws dictated by Justinian
  • The Code was compiled into four works; The Codex Constitutionum, Pandectae, and Institutiones were published in Latin; the Novellae Constitutiones Post Codicem was published in Greek
  • The Codex Constitutionum consisted of all past  “constitutions” declared by previous emperors as decided by a committee of ten men
  • the Pandectae was a revised selection of the Codex
  • The Institutiones, was essentially an outline of Roman law intended for first year law students
  • The Novellae Constitutiones Post Codicem contained outlines of Justininian’s new rulings made between BCE 534 and 565

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Roman Law

Background

In the earliest periods of Roman history, the law was essentially unwritten custom. When disputes arose  under the monarchy, the king held the authority to dispense justice as he saw fit. In the early republic this role was inherited by the magistrati, patrician officials  elected from the senate annually. This placed the plebeians at a disadvantage as the law was effectively whatever the magistrati wanted it to be. The blatant inequality of this regime caused violent unrest among Rome’s lower classes, prompting the senate to commission the first codification of Roman law, the writing of the twelve tables. All the laws of Rome were compiled and  clearly set out in the twelve tables, which, in enabling all members of society to examine and interpret the law, curbed the arbitrary power of the magistrati. The twelve tables were its foundation, but Roman law was constantly evolving as the various legislative assemblies introduced new laws and the mgistrati created legal precedents. It was also never really constant throughout the empire, as local tradition of the provinces blended with the imposed Roman system. After the republic collapsed and gave way to the new imperial regime, the emperor and his legates came to exercise a central role in the legal system, more and more replacing the function of the courts in administering justice. Continue reading “Roman Law”

Napoleonic Code

Background

  • The Napoleonic Code was the French civil code established under Napoleon Bonaparte I in France, 1804.
  • The Napoleonic Code influenced the civil codes of most continental European countries in the 19th century.
  • After the French Revolution (1789-1799), France needed a consistent legal code.
  • Before the Napoleonic Code, Roman law had governed the south of France while the northern provinces were ruled by customary law, which was based on feudal Frankish and German foundations.
  • The Roman Catholic church still controlled marital and family issues before this code.
  • 1804— Code Civil des Français formally enacted.
  • 1807— Title changed to Code Napoléon (The Napoleonic Code).
  • The Napoleonic Code is the basis of many modern day legal systems including Quebec’s civil law, although this has been revised.

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Early British Law

Background

  • Romans conquer Great Britain in 43CE – enforced their legal system, lasted until 410CE
    • Roman laws revolved around local customs and traditions
  • Included trial by ordeal, trial by oath helping, and trial by combat
    • All insufficient ways of determining guilt or innocence
  • In 1066, William the Conqueror invaded England and imposed the concept of divine right, the belief that monarchs are above the law
    • English law was inconsistent, there were no rules of evidence and no rights for the accused
  • Common law evolved into a system based on precedents – not written down in legislation
    • Judges rely on their own common sense, local customs, and traditions
  • After the Battle of Quebec (1759) Canada fell under English common law (not Quebec, it has civil law)

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Ancient Chinese Law

Background

One of the earliest Chinese law came from a country called Qi during the Spring and Autumn Period. It was not a law code but an ideology at first. This ideology was hugely affected by it birth place as Qi was a coastal country which was enriched by fishing and making salt. Therefore, in order to restrain people’s lust, Xun Zi started to spread the idea of punishments and law in his home country. Contrasting Confucianism, Legalism’s elites believed the humans were evil when they were born; however, ironically, the earliest Legalists were all students in Confucius Schools. Because of people’s evilness from birth, the Legalists believed that a king should use heavy laws to punish those who do sinful activities. Also, Legalism focused more on economical development and state-own business, which prospered the whole nation’s growth. Continue reading “Ancient Chinese Law”