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A Law Exhibit

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  • Introduction to Roman Law (by )
    Book Rating (44)
  • Roman Law in the Modern World (by )
    Book Rating (76)
  • Napoleon's Notes on English History, Mad... (by )
    Book Rating (30)
  • The World's Religions : A Popular Accoun... (by )
    Book Rating (45)
  • John King of England (by )
    Book Rating (30)
  • Confucianism (by )
    Book Rating (30)
  • The Chinese Their History and Culture (by )
    Book Rating (15)
  • The Relations between the Laws of Babylo... (by )
    Book Rating (30)
  • Codex Hammurabi (by )
    Book Rating (30)
  • The Magna Carta (by )
    Book Rating (60)
  • The French Civil Code (As Amended up to ... (by )
    Book Rating (45)
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Order:  A Law Exhibit

Our many book collections feature the top 100 greatest books which showcase the formation of governments and their varied legal systems from around the world, throughout time.  Books from our Government and Law Collections are included, as are books from a Religion and Philosophy Collections - since these disciplines have played a significant role in the development of systems and governments.  The Magna Carta and Code Napoléon and Declaration of Independence are examples of the the timeless documents which remain more relevant as ever and continue to be referenced and analyzed as systems of cooperation between world citizens.
Ancient Law
Ancient Law
King Hammurabi of Babylonia codified the Codex Hammurabi.  Confucianism and Legalism were two influential philosophies that informed Chinese political order (The Chinese: Their History and Culture, Kenneth Scott Latourette).  Ancient Laws reveal an adherence to strict hierarchy to maintain political order.   There are other examples of “bottom-up law” that challenged “top down” power (The French Civil Code As Amended Up to 1906, Eric Blackwood Wright).  The Magna Carta is known as the initial step in the long historical process that led to the rule of constitutional law in England and beyond.  The French Civil Code was based out of the Code Napoléan, established under Napoléon I in 1804.   The book Napoleon’s Notes on English History, Made on the Eve of the French Revolution, documents Napoléan’s analysis of English history, which shaped his thinking during the time of the French Revolution.  Perhaps it was this analysis of the kingly past that informed Napoléan’s founding intentions of the French Civil Code ("Napoleonic Code," World Heritage Encyclopedia).  Laws are a set of written rules created by people, based on their philosophies of order and justice.   The “Order:  A Law Exhibit" travels through the lands of Euphrates Valley, China, England and France to demonstrate examples of laws based on philosophies of power.

King Hammurabi of Babylonia codified the Codex Hammurabi.  The Codex represented the rule of a king whose power was constantly contested ("Legal History,"  World Heritage Encyclopedia).  According to the Relations between the Laws of Babylonia and the Laws of the Hebrew Peoples, the Hammurabi Code was a way for the group in power to maintain their power.  The aristocrats would retaliate seeking blood for crime against them, while the commoner had to be satisfied with payment for crimes against them.  Hammurabi wanted to maintain the allegiance of conquering groups, rather than the conquered, to protect his own position of power (Relations between the Laws of Babylonia and the Laws of the Hebrew Peoples, Claude Hermann Walter Johns).

In The Chinese Their History and Culture, writer Kenneth Scott Latourette explains that Confucianism and Legalism were two influential philosophies that informed Chinese political order.  In support of this, author George Thomas Bettany wrote in  The World’s Religions:  A Popular Account of Religions Ancient and Modern, Including Those of Uncivilised Races, Chaldaeans, Greeks, Egyptians, Romans : Confucianism, Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Mohammedanism, And a Sketch of the History of Judaism and Christianity, legalism emphasized strict adherence to bureaucratic law administered by autocratic leadership because of the belief that people were inherently selfish and corrupt.  In contrast, Confucianism believed that social stratification was seen as a fact of life, and could be sustained by people who upheld ethical and moral values (
Confucianism, Anonymous).

Ancient Laws reveal an adherence to strict hierarchy to maintain political order. These were conceived in times and places where the fragility of order could unravel by the competition of multiple forces and ideologies.  Nevertheless, it was the rigid expressions of “top down” rule that would endure over long periods of time, especially as the memory of its order is still being recognized in the present day.

Laws of England
Laws of England
There are other examples of “bottom-up law” that challenged  “top down” power.  One example is "The Magna Carta" (which is Latin for "Great Charter") signed at Runnymede, on the banks of the River Thames, England (“Magna Carta,” World Heritage Encyclopedia).  King John gave barons places to live on his land in exchange for their military service.  But after King John’s defeat at the battle of the Bouvines, his barons felt exploited by his continuous orders and taxes.  In John King of England, John T. Appleby writes that King John would impose high taxes and charges, known as scutage, to “finance his administration and provide subsidies for military expeditions” (John King of England, John T. Appledy).  

On 15 June 1215, King John’s barons refused to pay the scutage “on the assertion that they were not bound to military service in a foreign war and hence were not liable to scutage in place of that service” (John King of England, John T. Appledy).  They allied with one another against King John, forcing him to sign the document, thus preventing him from confiscating their lands and inheritances (“Magna Carta” World Heritage Encyclopedia).  This document is known as the initial step in the long historical process that led to the rule of constitutional law in England and beyond. This reflected the transformation of law in England where one ruler could no longer have absolute power (The Magna Carta, Joshua Hutchinson).  Rather, law-making became a process of bottom-up power, or sharing power and decision making with others who also held considerable clout.
Laws of France
Laws of France
The French Civil Code was based out of the Code Napoléan, established under Napoléon I in 1804 (“Napoléonic Code," World Heritage Encyclopedia).  It brought together previous patchworks of French feudal laws into a single legal code, with a pan-European scope (“Napoléonic Code”). In the book, The French Civil Code As Amended Up to 1906, E. Blackwood Wright explains that although the French did draw from Roman Law, other sections were a result of compromise between provincial laws of the French North and South (The French Civil Code As Amended Up to 1906, Eric Blackwood Wright). 

The book Napoléon’s Notes on English History, Made on the Eve of the French Revolution documents Napoléan’s analysis of English history, which shaped his thinking during the time of the French Revolution.  He wrote that revolutions are largely psychological:  “A man is only a man. His methods are nothing if his environment and public opinion do not support him.  Opinion rules everything.  Do you think it was [Martin] Luther who led the Protestant Reformation? No, it was public opinion roused against Popes....” (Napoléon’s Notes on English History, Made on the Eve of the French Revolution, Napoléon Bonaparte).  

Perhaps it was this analysis of the kingly past that informed Napoléan’s founding intentions of the French Civil Code. As a “bottom-up” form of codified power, this legal structure is considered more rational, without religious content, and written in the vernacular.  The revolution was a time when kings were seen as tyrants and treasonists as patriots, thus, Napoléan created the code to be accessible to the French public opinion so that they could check the interpretation of law, rather than be dictated by the laws of monarchs  (The French Civil Code As Amended Up to 1906, Eric Blackwood Wright).  

Works Cited
Anonymous. Confucianism.  World Public Library, 2010. 

Appledy, John T.  John King of England.  London:  Alfred A. Knopf, 1959. 

Bettany, George Thomas.  The World’s Religions:  A Popular Account of Religions Ancient and Modern, Including Those of Uncivilised Races, Chaldaeans, Greeks, Egyptians, Romans : Confucianism, Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Mohammedanism, And a Sketch of the History of Judaism and Christianity.  London:  Ward and Lock, 1890. 

Bonaparte, Napoléon.  Napoleon’s Notes on English History, Made on the Eve of the French Revolution.  London:  J.M. Dent, 1905. 

"Code of Hammurabi."  World Heritage Encyclopedia.  WorldLibrary.org.  Web.  2014.

"Confucianism."  World Heritage Encyclopedia.  WorldLibrary.org.  Web.  2014.

Hammurabi, King.  Codex Hammurabi.  (n.p.)  1772 B.C.

Hutchinson, Joshua.  The Magna Carta.  Blackmask.  Blackmask Online, 2000. 

Johns, Claude Hermann Walter.  Relations between the Laws of Babylonia and the Laws of the Hebrew Peoples.  London: Oxford University Press, 1914. 

Latourette, Kenneth Scott.  The Chinese: Their History and Culture.  London:  The Macmillian Company, 1943.

"Legalism."  World Heritage Encyclopedia.  WorldLibrary.org.  Web.  2014.

"Legal History."  World Heritage Encyclopedia.  WorldLibrary.org.  Web.  2014.

"Magna Carta."  World Heritage Encyclopedia.  WorldLibrary.org.  Web.  2014.

"Napoléonic Code."  World Heritage Encyclopedia.  WorldLibrary.org.  Web.  2014.

"Protestant Reformation, The."  World Heritage Encyclopedia.  WorldLibrary.org.  Web.  2014.

"Scutage."  World Heritage Encyclopedia.  WorldLibrary.org.  Web.  2014.

"United States Declaration of Independence."  James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington et al., July 4, 1776.

Wright, Eric Blackwood.  The French Civil Code (As Ammended Up to 1906).  London:  Stevens and Sons, Ltd., 1908. 

Law Collections
The “Order:  A Law Exhibit" showcases information about governments and their laws from around the world. We can see how different laws, such as the Codex of Hammurabi, and Confucianism and Legalism prescribed certain rules toward the population. But then we see how subjects of government began to limit the power of government leaders through laws such as the Magna Carta and the Code Napoléon.  These stories help us to understand how power is initially deployed and the way it shifts and changes hands throughout history via systems of law.  Discover more law-related books and texts in these collections:

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