Laying Down the Law
English common law, with its emphasis on the role of the jury, set a standard of fairness that has influenced legal systems across the world. Many of the features that characterise today's courts were in place by as early as the 14th century. How did England come to have such a distinctive and enduring system?
Barrister Harry Potter traces English law back to the simple compensation culture of early Anglo-Saxon Kent. He explores the rise of trial by ordeal, where painful and dangerous physical tests were used to determine guilt or innocence. He shows how this system of religious 'proof' came to be replaced by jury trial, explains why Henry II's attempt to unify law in England led to murder in Canterbury Cathedral and takes a revealing look at the most famous legal document in history, Magna Carta.