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Legal History:

A Brief Overview
Mesopotamia

2350 BC: Urukaginas Code


This code has never been discovered but it is mentioned in
other documents as a consolidation of ordinances or laws
laid down by Mesopotamian kings
2050 BC: Ur-Nammus Code
Earliest known written legal code. Evidence shows it was
supported by a legal system including specialized judges,
the giving of testimony under oath, and the power of judges
to order damages to be paid to a victim by the guilty party
1700 BC: Hammurabis Code
This Babylonian king came to power in 1750 BC. Under his
rule, a code of laws was developed and carved on a huge
rock column. The expression an eye for an eye has come
to symbolize the codes underlying principle.
Beyond Mesopotamia

1300 BC: The Ten Commandments


The Prophet Moses received a list of ten laws directly from
God. Known as the Ten Commandments, they later
became part of the Bible
1280 BC to 880 BC: The Laws of Manu
A written compilation of legal rules which had been passed
on from generation to generation. It formed the basis of the
caste system in India, where people were classified by their
social standing. Punishment only used as a last resort.
Members of higher castes punished more severely than
those of lower castes.
Greeks and Romans
621 BC: Dracos Law
Draco, a Greek citizen, was chosen to write a code of law for
Athens. The code was so severe that the word draconian has
come to mean unreasonably harsh
450 BC: The Twelve Tables
These laws written to govern Romans are considered to form the
foundation of much modern public and private law. Promoted the
organization of public prosecution of crimes and instituted a
system whereby injured parties could seek compensation from
their aggressors. A basic principle is that the law must be written.
Justice should not be left to judges alone to interpret
529: Justinians Code
The Byzantine emperor Justinian is remembered for his
codification of Roman law known as the Corpus Juris Civilis.
Many legal maxims still in use today are derived from the code,
which inspired the modern concept of justice.
Asia
350 BC: The Chinese Code of Li Kvei
The first Chinese imperial code of laws dealt with theft, robbery,
prison, arrest and general rules. It served as a model for the
Tang Code
604: The 17-Article Constitution of Japan
Written by a Japanese prince regent, the Constitution shaped
morality and law in Japan. One of its clauses said that peace
and harmony should be respected because they are very
important for intergroup relations. Shows emphasis of Oriental
law which seeks to prevent disputes, whereas Western law
seeks to resolve disputes.
653: Tang Code
Listed crimes and their punishment in 501 articles, revising
earlier Chinese codes and standardized procedures.
Medieval Europe

1100: First Law School


Started by Italian jurist Irnerius in Bologna. By 1150,
it had over 10,000 students and contributed to the
revival of the Corpus Juris and the spread of Roman
law throughout Europe.
1215: Magna Carta
King John of England signed Magna Carta (the
great charter), conceding a number of legal rights
to his barons and to the people. The first time a king
allowed that he could be compelled to observe a law
or that the barons could question him. Has been
called the blueprint of English common law.
Modern Legal Reforms

. 1776: The American Declaration of


Independence
For the first time a government rebuked the
medieval theory that certain people possessed by
right the power to rule others.
1804: Napoleonic Code
A comprehensive code of law enshrining many
victories obtained during the French Revolution, e.g.
individual liberty, equality before the law and the lay
character of the state. Inspired similar civil codes in
the Canadian Province of Quebec (1865), Germany
(1900) and Switzerland (1907).
Human Rights
1864: The Geneva Convention
Agreement designed to provide for minimal human rights in time
of war, e.g. for protection of military medical personnel and for
humane treatment of the wounded.
1945-46: The Nuremberg War Crimes Trial
A panel of eight judges tried Nazi officials for crimes against
peace, crimes against humanity and war crimes, showing that
even in time of war basic moral standards apply.
1948: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Proclaimed by the United Nations. Enshrines civil, political,
economic, social and cultural rights.
Comparison

Lets compare two ancient legal codes:


The Code of Hammurabi
The 10 Commandments