What is law? | The British Academy

From the moment that we humans began to sort ourselves into communities, we have had to work out how to control ourselves for the greater good of all. How can we resolve disputes without laying into each other, causing mayhem? Every society chooses authority over anarchy – but whose authority? The governance of the King or Queen was once good enough, and the rule of the priests still is in quite a few places. Custom and tradition do the same for some cultures, even today. 

The rule of law is a different way of doing authority, replacing the will of the monarch, priest or cultural leader with a set of rules that are based on explicitly agreed constraints on power. It is not just our power as ordinary mortals to do what we want that is controlled by these rules standing above us. King John at Runnymede in 1215 didn’t

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