Until the Norman Conquest in 1066, what was common law in England? was based on local customs. The Anglo-Saxons developed a body of rules similar to the Germanic peoples of northern Europe. In most matters, the church was the main power and court of law, but crimes were also considered wrongs and compensation was awarded to victims. Despite this, English law is surprisingly different from those of other European nations.
The history of common law in England goes back to the early Middle Ages. It was created by the courts of King’s Bench, the Court of Common Pleas, and the Exchequer. These courts ensured that laws would trump lesser court decisions. Judges created common law in England by writing judgments. The Magistrates’ Courts had the tendency to create huge variation in regional and local customs.
Early common-law procedure was highly complex, governed by the doctrine of stare decisis. The principle of binding precedent required courts to apply the principles of cases that had come before them, even if they were different. This doctrine, also called stare decisis, allowed courts to make decisions based on persuasive evidence and a judicial precedent. In the twelfth century, a similar rule applied to the courts in England and the United States.
As an example of how the common law is shaped, many legal theories of the late 19th century and the feminist movement have had trouble implementing their ideas. The common law on divorce in England, for instance, still held that the father had the right to custody of his children after a divorce, effectively trapping women in marriages. Today, women are free from this trap by the passage of time. The feminist movement has also faced these same issues, and aims to change this with civil legislation and social sentiment.