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History of Law

history of lawThe history of law is a long and rich one. Legal systems sprang up around the world during very ancient times along with agriculture and permanent settlements. The first book of law is believed to have been established by the Ancient Sumerians during the 22nd century BC. Sumerian law consisted of a number of conditional, if…then statements of crimes and punishments. Various civilizations created legal systems and codes according to their religious beliefs. The Ancient Egyptians had a very elaborate legal system and used twelve books of law centered around religious tradition as well as equality and fairness. Egyptian law dates back to at least 3000 BC.

During the same time period the Babylonians also developed their own laws. The most notable is the Hammurabi Code which was created around 1760 BC by King Hammurabi. The laws were carved into stone and distributed throughout the kingdom of Babylon. Many intact copies have been located and translated today into numerous languages. Later, the Ancient Greeks also developed laws, which included democracy and separate branches of government to handle legal aspects of the nation. The Romans were greatly inspired by the Greeks.

Ancient India and the regions of Eastern Asia developed separate legal systems as well as very different laws at roughly the same point in history. India’s laws originated in a Hindi text called the Arthashastra, dating back to about 400 AD. Meanwhile in Eastern Asia, Japan was creating a sophisticated codex more similar to Western laws and procedures. Western legal systems as well as Islamic law eventually spread east into much of Asia and were incorporated into the Hindi law.

Islamic law was established and began to slowly spread during the Middle Ages. The concept of jurisprudence actually originally in the Islamic legal system. During the 18th and 19th centuries European law was strongly shaped by the French Napoleonic Code, the German B├╝rgerliches Gesetzbuch and British common law. Modern law in the United States is based largely upon the British legal system with emphasis on case law with an added doctrine of federalism, separating state law from federal law.