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Mapping the Common Law: Some Lessons from History

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This paper explores the ways in which jurists from the 17th to the 19th centuries attempted to map the law. There were multiple ways of mapping the law and its concepts. No single taxonomy was comprehensive. The most general maps were found in treatises, organised largely around the rights of person and property. However, these treatises did not explain the law of obligations and its workings. A better conceptual mapping of the law of obligations could be found in the common law system of pleading, but even this “map” was incomplete, for it failed to embrace all the concepts which lawyers articulated in courtroom argumentation. Legal taxonomies thus did not determine the development of law: rather, lawyers and jurists used concepts and classifications in a flexible and fluid way.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2014

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  • The New Zealand Law Review, published quarterly by the Legal Research Foundation Inc. since 1966, is the premier law journal published in New Zealand. It includes refereed articles by leading New Zealand and international scholars, together with annual and biennial reviews of the major areas of the law, written by specialist contributing editors.
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