Historical Reprints History Our Legal Heritage

Our Legal Heritage

Our Legal Heritage
Catalog # SKU3331
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 1.00 lbs
Author Name S. A. Reilly
ISBN 10: 1610336984
ISBN 13: 9781610336987


Our Legal Heritage

King Aethelbert - King George III, 1776
600 A.D. - 1776

Unabridged Edition

S. A. Reilly

This was written to appreciate what laws have been in existence for a long time and therefore have proven their success in maintaining a stable society. Its purpose is also to see the historical context in which our legal doctrines developed. It includes the inception of the common law system, which was praised because it made law which was not handed down by an absolutist king; the origin of the jury system; the meaning of the Magna Carta provisions in their historical context; and the emergence of attorneys.

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The settlement of England goes back thousands of years. At first, people hunted and gathered their food. They wore animal skins over their bodies for warmth and around their feet for protection when walking. These skins were sewn together with bone needles and threads made from animal sinews. They carried small items by hooking them onto their belts. They used bone and stone tools, e.g. for preparing skins. Their uncombed hair was held by thistlethorns, animal spines, or straight bone hair pins. They wore conical hats of bound rush and lived in rush shelters.

Early clans, headed by kings, lived in huts on top of hills or other high places and fortified by circular or contour earth ditches and banks behind which they could gather for protection. They were probably dug with antler picks and wood spades. The people lived in rectangular huts with four wood posts supporting a roof. The walls were made of saplings, and a mixture of mud and straw. Cooking was in a clay oven inside or over an open fire on the outside. Water was carried in animal skins or leather pouches from springs lower on the hill up to the settlement. Forests abounded with wolves, bears, deer, wild boars, and wild cattle. They could more easily be seen from the hill tops. Pathways extended through this camp of huts and for many miles beyond.

For wives, men married women of their clan or bought or captured other women, perhaps with the help of a best man. They carried their unwilling wives over the thresholds of their huts, which were sometimes in places kept secret from her family. The first month of marriage was called the honeymoon because the couple was given mead, a drink with fermented honey and herbs, for the first month of their marriage. A wife wore a gold wedding band on the ring finger of her left hand to show that she was married. Women usually stayed at home caring for children, preparing meals, and making baskets. They also made wool felt and spun and wove wool into a coarse cloth. Flax was grown and woven into a coarse linen cloth. Spinning the strands into one continuous thread was done on a stick, which the woman could carry about and spin at anytime when her hands were free.

The weaving was done on an upright or warp-weighted loom. People of means draped the cloth around their bodies and fastened it with a metal brooch inlayed with gold, gems, and shell, which were glued on with glue that was obtained from melting animal hooves. People drank from hollowed-out animal horns, which they could carry from belts. They could tie things with rawhide strips or rope braids they made. Kings drank from animal horns decorated with gold or from cups of amber, shale, or pure gold. Men and women wore pendants and necklaces of colorful stones, shells, amber beads, bones, and deer teeth. They skinned and cut animals with hand-axes and knives made of flint dug up from pits and formed by hitting flakes off. The speared fish with barbed bone prongs or wrapped bait around a flint, bone, or shell fish hook. On the coast, they made bone harpoons for deep-sea fish. The flint ax was used to shape wood and bone and was just strong enough to fell a tree, although the process was very slow.

The king, who was tall and strong, led his men in hunting groups to kill deer and other wild animals in the forests and to fish in the streams. Some men brought their hunting dogs on leashes to follow scent trails to the animal. The men threw stones and spears with flint points at the animals. They used wood clubs to beat them, at the same time using wood shields to protect their bodies. They watched the phases of the moon and learned to predict when it would be full and give the most light for night hunting. This began the concept of a month. Circles of stone like Stonehenge were built with alignments to paths of the moon.

If hunting groups from two clans tried to follow the same deer, there might be a fight between the clans or a blood feud. After the battle, the clan would bring back its dead and wounded. A priest officiated over a funeral for a dead man. His wife would often also go on the funeral pyre with him. The priest also officiated over sacrifices of humans, who were usually offenders found guilty of transgressions. Sacrifices were usually made in time of war or pestilence, and usually before the winter made food scarce.

The clan ate deer that had been cooked on a spit over a fire, and fruits and vegetables which had been gathered by the women. They drank water from springs. In the spring, food was plentiful. There were eggs of different colors in nests and many hare to eat. The goddess Easter was celebrated at this time. After this hunting and gathering era, there was farming and domestication of animals such as horses, pigs, sheep, goats, chicken, and cattle. Of these, the pig was the most important meat supply, being killed and salted for winter use. Next in importance were the cattle. Sheep were kept primarily for their wool. Flocks and herds were taken to pastures. The male cattle, with wood yokes, pulled ploughs in the fields of barley and wheat.

The female goat and cow provided milk, butter, and cheese. The chickens provided eggs. The hoe, spade, and grinding stone were used. Thread was spun with a hand-held spindle which one hand held while the other hand alternately formed the thread from a mass and then wound it around the spindle. A coarse cloth was woven and worn as a tunic which had been cut from the cloth. Kings wore tunics decorated with sheet gold. Decorated pottery was made from clay and used to hold liquids and for food preparation and consumption. During the period of "lent" [from the word "lencten", which means spring], it was forbidden to eat any meat or fish. This was the season in which many animals were born and grew to maturity. Wood carts with four wheels were used to transport produce and manure. Horses were used for transportation of people or goods. Wood dug-out boats and paddles were used to fish on rivers or on the seacoast.

Clans had settlements near rivers. Each settlement had a meadow, for the mowing of hay, and a simple mill, with round timber huts, covered with branches or thatch or turf supported by a ring of posts. Inside was a hearth with smoke going up through a hole in the roof, and a cauldron for cooking food. There was an upright loom in the darkness. The floor was swept clean. At the door were spears or bags of slingstones ready for immediate use. The King lived in the largest hut. Gullies outside carried off excess water. Each hut had a garden for fruit and vegetables. A goat or cow might be tied out of reach of the garden. There was a fence or hedge surrounding and protecting the garden area and dwelling. Buckets and cauldrons which had originated from the Mediterranean were used. Querns with the top circular stone turned by hand over the bottom stone were used for grinding grain. There were ovens to dry and roast grain. Grain was first eaten as a porridge or cereal. There were square wood granaries on stilts and wood racks on which to dry hay.

Grain was stored in concealed pits in the earth which were lined with drystone or basket work or clay and made airtight by sealing with clay or dung. Old pits were converted into waste dumps, burials, or latrines. Outside the fence were an acre or two of fields of wheat and barley, and sometimes oats and rye. Wheat and rye were sown in the fall, and oats and barley in the spring. Sowing was by men or two oxen drawing a simple scratch plow. The crops were all harvested in the summer. In this two-field system, land was held by peasants in units designed to support a single extended family. These fields were usually enclosed with a hedge to keep animals from eating the crop and to define the territory of the settlement from that of its neighbors. Flax was grown and made into linen cloth. Beyond the fields were pastures for cattle and sheep grazing. There was often an area for beehives. This was subsistence level farming.

Pottery was given symmetry when formed with use of a wheel and heated in increasingly hot kilns. From kilns used for pottery, it was noticed that lumps of gold or copper ore within would melt and assume the shape of what they had been resting on. These were the first metals, and could be beaten into various shapes, such as ornaments. Then the liquid ore was poured into moulds carved out of stones to make axes and daggers, which were reheated and hammered to become strong. Copper-tipped drills, chisels, punches and awls were also made.

The bodies of deceased were buried far away from any village in wood coffins, except for kings, who were placed in large stone coffins after being wrapped in linen. Buried with them were a few personal items, such as copper daggers, flat copper axes, and awls [small pointed tool for piercing holes in leather, wood, or other soft materials.]. The deceased was buried in a coffin with a stone on top deep in the earth to keep the spirit of the dead from coming out to haunt the living.

568 pages - 8½ x 11softcover
ISBN-10: 1610336984
ISBN-13: 9781610336987