An Introduction to the History of the Land Law

By A. W. B. Simpson | Go to book overview

Preface

THIS book has been written to replace Sir William Holdsworth 's Historical Introduction to the Land Law, which served for many years as the standard elementary introduction to the history of the law of land. This is not a revised edition, though it is designed to serve much the same purpose, introducing undergraduates to a branch of study which they tend, initially at least, to find difficult and mysterious. Holdsworth, writing in 1927, believed 'that the approach to the study of the modern land law must be a historical approach', and he wrote his book expressly as an introduction to modern law. I have written from a slightly different position, as the title of this book indicates, and I decided to do this for a number of reasons. In the first place, modern text books on Real Property necessarily contain a good deal of historical matter, and in particular they deal quite fully with the nineteenthcentury law; I did not wish to duplicate the accounts which they give, and so I have been able to concentrate rather more on the early history of basic doctrines. In the second place, I am not sure that the heavy emphasis on history at an early stage in the teaching of modern property law is entirely admirable; for many students it seems better to study the history in more detail after they have studied the modern law, rather than before. Though it is true that some historical knowledge is essential to an intelligent understanding of property law as it is to-day, I rather wonder whether there is not a tendency to carry the historical approach to excess. It seems to me better for undergraduates to keep historical studies, to some extent at least, distinct from their work on current law -- to read history as history, and law as law. In the third place, I hope that this book may prove useful to pure historians who are not reading for law degrees at all.

One or two other minor points of policy need some explanation. In a short book the author's main problem is one of

-vii-

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