Front Page Titles (by Subject) SUMMARY - A Concise History of the Common Law
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SUMMARY - Theodore Frank Thomas Plucknett, A Concise History of the Common Law 
A Concise History of the Common Law (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2010).
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Real property law has been the battle-ground in most of the great struggles in our history. One of the bitterest conflicts between Church and State arose out of Henry II’s determination that patronage was “lay fee”, that is to say, real property amenable to the jurisdiction of the royal courts. Even earlier, the great social revolution which created feudalism, created thereby the foundations of the law of real property, and when the equally great revolution, late in the middle ages, replaced feudalism by the beginnings of modern society, we find corresponding changes in the law of land. Public law, too, owes much to the principles first worked out in connection with land. The barons won a notable victory against King John when they established the inviolability of the freeholder’s land, and the law of freehold served the cause of freedom centuries later.
It is in terms of real property law that such social factors as the rise, and still stranger decline, of serfdom must be expressed, while the emergence of a mercantile community had important results which even went so far (as we have already seen) as the creation of peculiar mercantile estates in land. The long and obscure story of settlements and disentailing devices reflects not only social problems and the difficulty of expressing the family itself in terms of real property law, but also illustrates the growth of land as a commodity with a market value, and shows that land (especially in the eighteenth century) was now the object of intensive exploitation which required the sinking of considerable capital sums—and often this could only be achieved by selling or charging settled land. Corresponding difficulties existed even on the purely physical side, and so there came the enclosure movement which rapidly changed the face of the countryside. An economic history of the law of real property has not yet been written, and this is not the place to attempt so difficult a task; nevertheless, some reference to economic and social factors must be made in the pages that follow, even if they fail to receive all the weight to which they would be entitled in a fuller discussion.