Law and History

Law and History.  Every act in British Law has a historical context, shedding  light on what things, parliament and therefore society hold to be most important. Use the timeline to explore this historic theme. How does engagement with law and its processes help historians?



Law and History is a theme that helps to tell the story about what society holds important. An historical context helps to shed light on what we hold to be most important to society.

Law and History

Law Courts in London

Laws impact across all our themes and they can be useful benchmarks of social change and reform. As we traverse our themes, periods and centuries we discover some connections to the laws of the land. Our timeline table allows you to access more detailed content. The collection will be gradually catalogued and linked new articles and research, as we progress. In Britain the laws are founded upon hundreds of years of Common Law. Our Laws in themselves, tells a rich story of British history and of life as we live it today in Britain. In this the 800th year (2015) since Magna Carta, which was sealed in 1215 by King John, the world is examining the place of British law as it is interpreted globally. We should be tankful for the rich collection of legal online resources, which we can use to encourage debate. Treaties, statutes, system of law and core concepts, all can be discussed here.

And what of the role of lawyers themselves, how have they been viewed throughout history, some such as Thomas Cromwell, had the ear of the most influential people in the land.

"Any law which violates the inalienable rights of man is essentially unjust and tyrannical, it is not a law at all."




Theme: Law and Order Timeline

1st Anglo Saxon LawsLaw
1066 William I's LawsMonarchy Law
1215 Magna Carta
Freedom and Liberty King John Magna Carta Habeas Corpus Trial by Peers
Freedom and Liberty
King John Magna Carta
Habeas Corpus Trial by Peers
1351 Statute of Labourers 1351Employment Law Work and occupations Job
1388 Statute of Cambridge 1388Statute of Cambridge
1494 Vagabonds and Beggars Act 1494Poor Law
1547 Edward VI and Vagrancy Act 1547
Edward VI and Vagrancy Act 1547
Poor law Edward VI Tudor
1562 Witchcraft Act 1562Witchcraft Act 1562
1601 Poor Law England 1601Poor Law 1601
1628 The Petition of Right 1628Petition of Rights 1628
1711 The Bubble Act 1720
The Act required a company o have a Royal Charter to be incorporated in an effort to stop the competition from trading in the lucrative South American and Western Coast of North America Markets. It would end in the crash and disaster when the Bubble burst. For more on Joint Stock Ownership and the Corporate entityJoint Stock Ownership and the development of the Corporae Entity
Business Company law Trade Economy Stock Exchange Bank of England South Seas Company
1720-1782 Declaratory Act 1720This act attempted to resolve the constitutional relationship between Britain and Ireland that had periodically flared up in the period since the Glorious Revolution. The act was repealed in 1782.
1723 Workhouse Test Act 1723Workhouse Test Act 1723
1766 Declaratory Act 1766Following repeal of the Stamp Act, it affirmed the right of Parliament to enact laws remaining to the American colonies.
1774 Repeal of Calico Act 1774Repeal of the Callico Act 1774
1782 Gilberts Act 1782Gilberts Act of 1782: Enabling Parishes to pool together and form Unions for Poor Relief.
1815 The Corn Laws 1815Corn Laws Act of 1815
1824Combination Act lifts ban on trade union association
1832 Great Reform Act
1832 Anatomy Act 1832Anatomy Act 1832
1832 Review of the Poor Law Act 1832Review of the Poor Law Act 1832,Earl Grey, the Prime Minister, set up a review of the Poor Law Act of 1601. The result of the review was a report that came to the conclusions as set out on the linked article. It was not really good news for the Poor and continued the tradition dating back 300 plus years before that the 'poor are idle vagabonds.6 This was about minimising the cost of the poor on society not helping them and begun the draconian principles of the Poor Law Unions and Workhouse system. Click for more information. on the title.
1833 Abolition of Slavery Act 1833Abolition of Slavery Act 1833
1834 Poor Law Amendment Act 1834Poor Law Amendment Act 1834
1834 ‘Lunatics’ and the Poor Law Act 1834Lunatics and the Poor Law Act 1834
1834Chimney SwChimney Sweeps Act 1834eeps ActEnacted to protect children.
1836 Birth Marriage Death Registration Act 1836Birth Marriage Death Registration Act 1836: The Birth, Marriage and Death Registration Act of 1836, introduced registration of these life events but contained no penalties for refusal to register.
1838 Britain Applies Poor Law Act to Ireland 1838Poor Law is applied to Ireland
1840 Convention of London 1840 re Egypt Sudan and Acre
Convention of London Treaty between Major Power and Muhammad Ali's Egypt and the Ottoman Empire
Property Law Key Concepts
1844 Companies Act 1844/
Following repeal of the Bubble Act of 1720 this statute did away with the need for royal assent and charter to proceed with the formation of a Joint Stock Company with transferable stock or shares. All that was now required was registration.
Business Company Law Bubble Act South Seas Company Economy
1846 Repeal of the Corn Laws 1846Repeal of the Corn Laws Act 1846
1850 Factory Act 1850Factory Act 1850 The Factory Act 1850 reflects the development of formalised workers rights as the plight of the common man during this period of intense industrialisation replaced exploitation as he had tilled in the fields, for exploitation in dirty and often unsavory factory environments.
1850 Repeal of the Navigation Acts 1850Repeal of the Navigation Acts 1850
1855 Limitation Of Liabilities Act 1855
Following Company registration under Companies Act 1844 shareholders risks were legally limited to the value of their shares encouraging broader participation in share ownership and business investment. See also Incorporation and Joint Stock Ownership.
Business Company Law
1862 Land Registry Founded
Copyhold Tenure what does it mean? Land rights a cornerstone of British history. Copyhold leasehold and Freehold as legal concepts and land right tenures explained.
Property and Land Law
1864 First Contagious Disease Act 1864 Why was it important and who was Josephine Butler?

The First Contagious Disease Act of 1864 and why was Josephine Butler important? This act was passed with the aim of controlling the spread of venereal disease in 1864. The impact was that prostitutes and those even believed to be so could be locked away in special hospitals. The reality was these were places not of kindness care and for improving their health and welfare but places where the women were subject to male brutality violence and shocking events that eventually got out into public knowledge.
Health and Safety Law
Social Change Work Jobs and Occupations
1867 Second Reform Act 1867
This 2nd attempt at expand the members of the British Population who were entitled to vote fell short of true democracy but a long mark. But relatively it was a large leap forward, although it did not go far enough.
Law and Democracy
Right to vote
Universal Suffrage
Womens Suffrage and Womens Rights
1870 Married Women’s Property Act 1870

The Married Women’s Property Act of 1870 was one of the most important statutory laws enacted. It marked a change in the role of women in Britain.
Suffrage Womens Rights
Property law
1870 Education Act 1870 introduces secular rate-supported Elementary Schools administered by approximately 2000 school boards.Education Children Law
1873 Education Act 1873
Education Children Law
1876 Education Act 1876Education Children Law
1880 Education Act 1880
Education Act 1880 introduces compulsory schooling and education.
Social Change
Education Law
1902 Education Act 1902

Education Act 1902 extends opportunities for secondary education.
Social Change
Education Law
1906 Education School Meals Provision Act 1906
Education (Provision of Meals) Act 1906, in the same year of the radical and reforming People's Budget when the need for rearmament funding and balance of the need for social reform is fiercely contested. This provision to assist and ensure poor children get reduced cost meals available to them at school. Costs to be shared by local and central government and this applies only to elementary schools.
Health and Nutrition Children Education Law
Social Change
1907 Education (Administrative Provisions ) Act

Education (Administrative Provisions ) Act 1907
provides for medical inspection for elementary schools and starts to introduce a free-places quota in the elementary schools.
Education Children Law
Health and Sanitation Law
1911 Parliament Act 1911

A vital moment in our democratic history when following two geneneral elections after the debacle of lloyd George's Constitutional Crisis of the People’s Budget 1909 and the death of Edward VII finally the King's Barons are subjugated to the will of the Commons and can no longer reject or block legislation passed by the elected House of Commons.
Law and Democracy
British Constitution Unwritten law
1918 Representation of the People Act 1918
Representation of the Peoples Act: 1918 finally Britain starts the process of creating proper democracy: It is far from perfect but post the horrors of the war and suffrage the process of reform has begun. This act was also known as the 4th reform act.
It started the process proper of bringing democracy to the UK but it was just a start and it was pretty late in getting underway:
Law and Democracy
Universal Suffrage
Womens Rights
Womens Suffrage
1918 Education Act 1918Education Act 1918 makes compulsory attendance universal to the age of 14 and introduces continuation classes for between school leaver age and 18.
1919 Paris Peace Conference 1919 and Treaty of Versailles 1919

WW1 Peace Treaty from the Paris Peace Conference 1919 held in Versailles Palace France.
War and Law
Peace Treaties
Empire International Relations
1931 Statute of Westminster
The statute confers legislative autonomy to Canada, Newfoundland, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand as part of the British Commonwealth
Empire Dominions Canada Britain Commonwealth Government
1936 Education Act 1936
Raises the school leaving age to 15 but later this is deferred due to WW2, meaning that boys of over 14 would be available for work or service if required.
Education Children Law
1936 Anglo-Egyptian Treaty 1936
Loosening control over the Middle East with the Anglo Egyptian Treaty but retaining control of the Suez Canal.
International Relations Egypt Britain Treaties
1944 Education Act 1944
President of Board of Education becomes minister for education, primary and secondary education are divided at 11 plus and school leaving age is raised to 15, after war deferral but does not become operative until 1947.
Law Education Children
1949 Parliament Act 1949 Amended
This was an amendment shortening and equalising the maximum delay that the House of Lords can cause to the passing of a Bill in the House of Commons. It was a revision of the original 1911 act.
Democracy parliament Government