Anglo-Saxon law


The common law is best known in the world of law under the name of “Common Law” , and the term refers to the legal system which was derived from the old medieval England . Currently, there are many states that maintain the legal influence of Great Britain and today the States of Law have added institutions that were born from Common Law.

What is Anglo-Saxon law?

It is the legal system that is derived from the system applied in medieval England and that is used in the territories that have British influence, which in turn is characterized by having jurisprudence as the main basis instead of laws .

  • What does it consist of
  • Characteristics of Anglo-Saxon law
  • Beginning
  • Elements
  • Sources
  • Object of Anglo-Saxon law
  • Background
  • Story
  • How it differs from Roman law
  • Importance of Anglo-Saxon law
  • Examples

What does it consist of

Anglo-Saxon law is a type of law that consists of a group of principles and practices that are not written in any book and whose authority does not come from a singular and positive mandate statement through a source that is of legislative origin. or executive .


Characteristics of Anglo-Saxon law

Among the main characteristics that we can observe in Anglo-Saxon law we mention:

  • It is a right that is applied in countries that have influence from England and in Anglo – Saxon countries where private law is minimal.
  • The judges to issue rulings are based on previous rulings that are similar.
  • Anglo-Saxon law is predominantly practical and not theoretical .
  • It is a law formed by judges .
  • Its rules are aimed at finding the solution to a process and are not based on the formulation of general rules for the future.
  • It develops its legal principles through the courts .
  • The administration of justice , procedure and evidence have a common interest.
  • It has no definite rules nor is it based on custom .
  • In this type of law we also do not find codes as in judicial precedents .


The system that involves Anglo-Saxon law is based mainly on the analysis of all the judicial sentences that are dictated by the same court or by one of its superior courts and on the interpretations that are made on the sentences, the laws are based , which most of the time they are considered ambiguous . Other of its principles is the ratio decidendi that speaks to us of the ” reason to decide “ or of “the sufficient reason” on the sentencesthat have already been issued and that oblige a court to rule in the same way or in a very similar way. This is why the systems are based on the meticulous study of the sentences from which the norm is induced. Anglo-Saxon law has a procedural origin , it is a public open-chamber procedure with a few exceptions.


The first element is known as actus reus and refers to the actual action taken by the individual who is suspected of having done something against society. The actus reus must be voluntary and must exist for a charge to move forward. The next element is the mens rea where the accused or suspect must have the state of mind , mental state or intention , of having done everything that is suspected of doing to commit the crime . The third element is causality which says that the act that was committed must have clearly caused what happened.


The sources of Anglo-Saxon law are the following:

  • Jurisprudence : are all those decisions that are issued by the judge when he resolves aspecific case .
  • Law : it comes from the parliament that can come from the queen and the congress , from the ministers or from the legal authorities.
  • The Custom : it can be of three types, the general custom that is identified as the Common Law, the commercial custom that comes from the Middle Ages and the local custom that can enforce a person before a court to be recognized.
  • The Doctrine : it is based on a series of old legal books that are accepted worldwide by judges and lawyers.

Object of Anglo-Saxon law

The main object of Anglo-Saxon law is to achieve a unification of the administration of justice and law , whose responsibility falls on the judges.


Anglo-Saxon law had its origins in the different medieval English customs . The first Celtic peoples that arrived in England and that were made up of tribes and clans , had the need to create a set of norms that were susceptible and that could be qualified as a legal system , a set of customs that served to govern the settlers.

The fall of the Roman Empire caused some barbarian peoples to settle on the island and for this reason the source of English law comes from the fusion of different cultures , including modern culture that came from the continent.


The history of Anglo-Saxon law was influenced by Roman law in many of the European States and despite the prohibition ordered by the kings in England this law influenced the Anglo-Saxon legal system, mainly in the civil and legal procedures established in the judicial procedure of the English legal system. Anglo-Saxon law is derived properly from the system that was applied in medieval England , used mainly in the territories that have British influence . In England two different bodies of rules arose, one was the common law, and later came the “equity” ; which were adopted as the basis of the law of the American states.

How it differs from Roman law

The Anglo-Saxon or Common Law system is characterized by not having a large number of laws that are written and also because it is based on the derived precedents that have been given in royal trials , while the Roman or continental law system as well as it is known, it is a system that was developed in Europe (except Great Britain) and it is a right that is written and that is based on a series of codes influenced by Roman customs .

Importance of Anglo-Saxon law

Its importance is that it is a right that is based on institutionalized opinions and interpretations of judicial authorities and public juries in order to establish consistent results through the application of the same standards of interpretation.


On July 27, 1934, a man was walking along a narrow path along the railroad tracks. As a train approached, something protruding from one of the carriages struck him and knocked him over, causing his arm to get crushed under the wheel of a train. The train was operated by a corporation registered in New York, for which a civil lawsuit was filed in federal district court. The district court judge who heard the case followed current federal law at the time, applying federal common law to the case, rather than the common law of the state of Pennsylvania or New York. The common lawThe federal government applied a standard of “habitual negligence” in determining the level of care the railroad owes to people who are not employed by the railroad. Common law in the state of Pennsylvania, where the accident occurred, specifies that the railroad owes trespassers a duty to care for trespassers, requiring proof of a higher level of negligence. The court ruled in Tompkins’ favor and awarded him damages.

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