About Law: An Introduction

About Law: An Introduction

About Law: An Introduction

About Law: An Introduction


Here is a simple introduction to the intellectual challenges presented by law in the western secular tradition, written by one of Britain's most revered and eminent scholars of law. The text discusses branches of the law such as contracts, property, torts, criminal law and interpretation. It also covers the moral and historical aspects of law, such as justice, obedience, and the differences between civil and common law systems.


Everyone knows something about law from personal experience, television or newspapers. This book is a brief introduction, with a minimum of technical terms, to the problems that law presents and to how lawyers go about solving them. It is meant for people who are thinking of studying law, or who are curious about it and would like to know more. Some of them may have heard that learning law is a matter of learning rules by rote. That is not true, and the reasons why it is not true are explained in the book.

The technical terms that cannot be avoided are explained as we go along and in a glossary at the end. I have tried to write simply, but do not pretend that the arguments are always straightforward. Law can be quite complex. That is part of its fascination.


Law has several aims. They are all concerned with making society more stable and enabling people to flourish. One way of doing this is to set up an official framework of compulsion. The law forbids certain ways of behaving, like murder, libel, and parking on double yellow lines, and requires others, like paying income tax. If people disobey the rules the law threatens them with something unpleasant (often called a sanction), like being punished or having to pay compensation. The idea is that within this framework of do's and don'ts people can live more securely. If they are more secure they will treat one another better.

A second aim is to provide facilities for people to make their own arrangements. Laws guarantee to people who buy and sell goods, make wills, take employment, form companies and so on that the state will if necessary enforce these arrangements.

A third aim is to settle disputes about what the law is and whether it has been broken.

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