The common law of England and Wales is one of the major global legal traditions.
This MOOC will give you an introduction to this influential legal system including its history, constitutional background, sources and institutions. You’ll learn about the different ways in which laws are made and interpreted, the English court system and the increasing importance of European Union and human rights law. Now is an especially exciting time to be learning about English common law, given the potential changes that lie ahead in today’s political, economic and social environment – all these pose challenges to and opportunities for the law.
Each week we’ll focus on one aspect of English common law, using video lectures, readings, discussion questions and activities to enable you to learn about and evaluate key issues. Whether undertaken as a standalone course, or as preparation for the University of London’s world-class LLB degree, you will find this course interesting and stimulating.
Please note that participation in or completion of this online course will not confer academic credit for University of London programmes.
WEEK 1 Week One: Dead Kings and Presidents: A Brief History of the Common Law
Welcome to the first week of the course. Week 1 is an overview of the English legal system. We will consider the history of the common law, and look at what it means to say that English law is a common law system. We will also explore some important themes in common law.
WEEK 2 Week Two: See You In Court: The Court System and the Common Law
Welcome to the second week of the course. This week will introduce you to the British Constitution and identify its sources. Week 2 will also look at the fundamental constitutional principles which underpin the English Legal System.
WEEK 3 Week Three: Supreme Power: Parliamentary Sovereignty and Law Making
Welcome to the third week of the course. This week we'll look at how the court system works in England. We'll think about different courts in the system, and also other methods of resolving legal disputes.
WEEK 4 Week Four: Wigs and Pens: Judicial Law Making and the doctrine of Precedent
Welcome to the fourth week of the course. This week will introduce you to statutes or Acts of Parliament, one of the most important sources of English law. Week 4 will cover how statutes are made and the different ways they are interpreted by the courts. You'll also consider whether statutes should be simplified.
WEEK 5 Week Five: Reading the Riot Act: How Statutes are Interpreted
Welcome to the fifth week of the course. This week we'll explore another key source of English law, case law. You'll be introduced to the doctrine of judicial precedent and the question of judges as law-makers. You'll have the opportunity to read a case yourself and write a case-note.
WEEK 6 Week Six: After the War, Before the Peace: The European Union and Human Rights
Welcome to the sixth and final week of the course. This week will introduce you to the European Union and to the European Convention on Human Rights. Week 6 will also consider the impact of membership of the EU and of the Human Rights Act 1998 on the English Legal System, in particular on the principle of parliamentary sovereignty.