Professor Michael DeBow, Samford University
**  To return to the Legal Process class website, click here.

August 23, 2015:  This site remains under construction.  Comments are welcome.

"A London barrister of 1540, quick-frozen and revived in New York today, would only need a year’s brush-up course at NYU School of Law to begin civil practice in a midtown or Wall Street corporate-law firm."
            --  Norman F. Cantor, Imagining the Law (1997), p. 192.
How could this be true?  What can you learn from the following outline that might help you answer this question?

British dates are at the left margin
*  Dates from the Continent (or even further afield) are marked with an asterik
          American dates are indented

43 A.D.  Roman troops subdue southeastern England

*  312   Edict of Milan

*  325   Council of Nicea

*  380   Edict of Thessalonica  directed Roman citizens to conform to the Christian orthodoxy proclaimed by the Council of Nicea

c. 410  Departure of last Roman troops from England, followed by chaos, death, destruction, etc.

*  410  Rome sacked by the Visigoths

c. 450  Angles and Saxons, two Germanic tribes, begin to migrate into England
            Anglo-Saxon Chronicle,
            History of the Britons,

*  476  Last Roman Emperor turns out the lights on what's left of the Western Empire

*  529-565  Codification of Roman Law by order of (Eastern) Emperor Justinian (called the “Corpus Juris Civilis” from 17th
   and other links

597  St. Augstine of Canterbury, a Christian missionary, arrives in the Kingdom of Kent, eventually converting King Ethelbert some time before 601

c.  600  The Laws of Ethelbert of Kent (Berman: “The earliest of the Anglo-Saxon legal compilations”)
  and and
           Anglo-Saxon law extracts,

* 732  The Franks, led by Charles Martel, stop the Moorish (Muslim) invasion of western Europe at the Battle of Tours

c. 865-1045  Viking invasions and wars

871-899  reign of Alfred the Great, the first monarch to claim the title, "King of the Anglo-Saxons"

1066  William, Duke of Normandy, invades England, defeats the Anglo-Saxon king Harold at the Battle of Hastings (October
           14); Norman troops subdue the rest of England; William installed as King William I (Christmas Day)
           The Statutes of William the Conqueror,

* 1075-1122  The Papal Revolution (a.k.a. the "Investiture Controversy")
           see also Berman

1086  Domesday Book compiled, a complete record of British landholdings, including the roughly 1,500 tenants-in-chief who
            held directly of the King

* 1088  Law school founded at Bologna, by Irnerius.  Was center of scholarship on the recently rediscovered Justinian's
            Institutes (see 529-565, above).

*  1095-1099  First Crusade

1100  Charter of Liberties of Henry I, foreshadowing Magna Carta (1215)

mid-1100s  Gratian, The Decretum, a collection of "thousands of authoritative statements by popes, church councils, theologians, and secular authorities"

1154-1189  reign of Henry II (see Berman’s assessment of his importance)
1170  Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, murdered in the Cathedral by four of King Henry's men.  High point in clash
           between English Crown and the Pope.

c. 1188  Glanvill (treatise),

*  1189-1192  Third Crusade (a.k.a. the "Kings' Crusade," involving Richard I ("Lionheart") and other kings as commanders)

1199-1216  reign of John I

  Magna Carta
           text of and essays on Magna Carta (1914), 
           more essays on Magna Carta (1917),
          What Is Magna Carta? (2015),  
            Fourth Lateran Council prohibits clerics from participating in trials by ordeal

c. 1250  Bracton, On the Laws and Customs of England

1265  Parliament meets for the first time

*  1272  Ninth (and final) Crusade ends

1272-1307  Reign of Edward I (Longshanks, and the Hammer of the Scots; also the "English Justinian," according to Coke)   

1290  Statute Quia Emptores

1295  Model Parliament summoned by Edward I, "generally regarded as the first representative assembly"     

*  1337-1453  The Hundred Years' War

1341  Commons and Lords meet separately for the first time 
          The Manner of Holding Parliament, a mid-14th century document

1349-1351  “Black Death”

1455-1487  Wars of the Roses

1509-1547  Reign of Henry VIII

* 1519  Martin Luther’s 95 Theses; beginning of the Reformation

1534  Henry VIII takes the Church in England out of the Catholic Church

1536  Henry VIII begins seizure and sale of the monasteries and their property

1547  Henry VIII dies, is succeeded by his young son, Edward VI (who was to reign only 6 years)

1553-1558  Reign of "Bloody" Mary I, who attempts to return England to the Catholic Church

1558-1603, Reign of Elizabeth I, who re-commits England to Protestantism and dies childless, setting the stage for the Stuart dynasty.

1603-1625  Reign of James I (Stuart)

1604   The Apology of Parliament, in whcih Parlimaent asserts that it speaks for the entire "state of the realm" and makes the first significant use of the word "rights" in an English politcal/legal document  

1605  The Gunpowder Plot ("remember, remember the fifth of November")

        1607  Jamestown Colony (Va.) founded.  First English settlement in what is to become the USA.
                  13 Colonies: A Timeline,

1610  Parliament lodges the Petition of Grievances with James I

1611  King James Version of the Bible

*  1618-1648  Thirty Years’ War rages on the Continent

        1620  Plymouth Colony (Mass.),

1625-1649  Reign of Charles I, a believer in the "divine right of Kings" = much conflict with Parliament

1628  Petition of Right lodged by Parliament against Charles I
           about Edward Coke

1628-1644  Edward Coke, Institutes of the Laws of England

Scottish Prayer Book read for the first time in Scotland, at the direction of King Charles -- in hindsight, a bad decision

1638   Scottish National Covenant

Elections for the Long Parliament, the first contested Parliamentary elections in English history

   The Grand Remonstrance

  English Civil War

1649  Execution of Charles I
           Charles's defense excerpted at
           Charles's death warrant discussed at

1649-1660  The Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell (d. 1659)
  (video, maps, timeline)

1651   Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan 


1653  Instrument of Govenrment, the first written constitution in England

1660-1685  Restoration of the monarchy, reign of Charles II

1685-1688  Reign of James II

1688  Glorious Revolution (Parliament ousts James II, installs William and Mary (James II’s daughter))
           recent book by Michael Barone describes the Glorious Rev and links it to the American Revolution;
1689  English Bill of Rights
1690  John Locke, Second Treatise of Government
           -- see especially sections 95-99,

1701  Act of Settlement includes in its section III a huge step toward an "independent" judiciary, with judges' tenure defined in terms of good behavior ("quamdiu se bene gesserint") rather than the pleasure of the Monarch -- three paragraphs from the end

1707  Act of Union merges England and Scotland under one monarch, creates the Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland

1740    David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature

1756-1763  Seven Years' War, including
        1754-1763  French & Indian War in North America

1765-1769  William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, or

        1775  Hostilities commence in the War of Independence

1776    Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations

        1776  U.S. Declaration of Independence,
        1781  Articles of Confederation,
                    and British forces surrender at Yorktown, ending the War of Independence
        1787  U.S. Constitution promulgated,
        1787-1788  The Federalist Papers,
        1789  U.S. Constitution adopted

1789  French Revolution begins in May; the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen is proclaimed in August.

          For the Declaration, go to

1789  Jeremy Bentham, The Principles of Morals and Legislation
           on Bentham:

1790  Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France

*  1793  In France, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette guillotined; "Committee on Public Safety" formed, followed by a "revolutionary government."  The Terror begins in September, and lasts until July 1794.

*  1799  Napoleon a key member of a successful coup in France.  He expands his power steadily, with the logical conclusion reached in December 1804, when he crowns himself Emperor.  Napoleon's strong interest in the civil law and its reform reflected in the Code Napoleon, which goes into force in April 1804.


*  1814-1815  The Congress of Vienna negotiates the treaty ending the Napoleonic Wars, creating a system for the co-existence of European nations that results in a relatively peaceful 19th century on the Continent (the so-called "Concert of Europe").

*  1815  Napoleon decisively defeated by the British at Waterloo, in Belgium.

1832  The Representation of the People Act (better known as "The Reform Act") extends voting rights (a bit) and redraws voting districts for the House of Commons.

*  1840  Pierre Proudhon, What Is Property?

*  1848  Marx & Engels, The Communist Manifesto

1859  John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

        1861-1870  U.S. Civil War and the Civil War Amendments (the 13th, 14th, and 15th)

1867   The Second Reform Act

        1870  West Publishing Co. founded; Christopher Columbus Langdell becomes dean of Harvard Law School (serves for 25 years) and publishes the first half of "Cases on the Law of Contracts," the first American casebook (the second half is published in 1871)

1884   The Third Reform Act

        1887  Interstate Commerce Commission created (the first federal administrative agency)

        1890  Sherman Act (the key federal antitrust statute)

1909  The so-called Peoples Budget (the first explicity redisributionist government budget in the English speaking world?)

1911  The Parliament Act  reduces the power of the House of Lords

        1913  Woodrow Wilson becomes 28th President; 16th Amendment (federal income taxation) and 17th Amendment (popular election of U.S. Senators) adopted; Federal Reserve System created

*  1917  Bolshevik Revolution in Russia

1918   Female suffrage in Great Britain (extended in 1928)

        1920  19th Amendment ratified, guaranteeing female suffrage      

        1929  Stock market crash in October; Great Depression begins thereafter (more or less)

        1932  Franklin Roosevelt defeats incumbent President Herbert Hoover in a landslide

        1933  Roosevelt becomes 32nd President; the "Hundred Days" usher in the New Deal

        1935  Social Security Act; National Labor Relations Act (a.k.a. the "Wagner Act")

        1936-37  The "Court packing" episode ends with Roosevelt losing the battle, but winning the war

*  1948  Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the UN

        1954  U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education

        1960  Ronald Coase, The Problem of Social Cos

        1962  James Buchanan & Gordon Tullock, The Calculus of Consent

        1964  Civil Rights Act of 1964; Lyndon Johnson re-elected President

        1965  Medicare and Medicaid created

        1970  Clean Air Act; Environmental Protection Agency established

        1972  Clean Water Act

*  1989  Communism collapses in central and eastern Europe

*  1991  Soviet Union declares bankruptcy, goes out of business

        2010  Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA)

        2012  PPACA declared constitutional, for the most part, by the US Supreme Court on a 5-4 vote

        2015  PPACA survives another constitutional challenge, on a 6-3 vote of the US Supreme Court

* * * *

To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child.
-- Cicero

* * * *

Also check out The Timetable of World Legal History at  (fantastic)

**  Additional legal history websites

Legal History Blog,
Legal History on the Web (Duke U.),
The Legal History Project,  (Blog included)

Robert Palmer, English Legal History Materials (course page; a great resource),
British Legal History links (Cambridge),
A.V. Dicey, The Law of the Constitution (1885),
Websites devoted to utilitarianism: and and

More legal history resources in section X of

**  Additional English/British history websites

History of the British Monarchy,
History of Parliament,
History of Parliament,
The National Archives,

BBC’s British History in-depth,
BBC's interactive timeline of British history,
BBC Radio's This Sceptred Isle –

British History,
Internet Medieval Sourcebook: England,
Lectures in medieval history,

The Age of George III (1760-1830),
Robert Peel web (roughly 1830-50),

**  Additional American history websites

The Founders' Constitution (1986)
The American Republic: Primary Sources (2002),
A Chronology of U.S. Historical Documents  (U. of Oklahoma) (Claremont Institute)
Constitution Society  (includes Cooke edition of The Federalist
Liberty Library of Constitutional Classics

Oliver Wendell Holmes, The Common Law (1881),
Oliver Wendell Holmes, The Path of the Law, 10 Harv. L. Rev. 457 (1897),

eHistory at Ohio State University,

**  Additional Roman/civil law websites

Roman Law Resources --
Q & A on Roman Law --
The Roman Law Library --
Roman Law --
Roman Law interactive timeline --
Roman Legal Tradition, a journal published by the U. of Glasgow and the Ames Foundation –

Original material Copyright (c) 2007-15 Michael E. DeBow.