An Analysis of the Laws of England

An Analysis of the Laws of England

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An Analysis of the Laws of England is a legal treatise by British legal professor William Blackstone
William Blackstone
Sir William Blackstone KC SL was an English jurist, judge and Tory politician of the eighteenth century. He is most noted for writing the Commentaries on the Laws of England. Born into a middle class family in London, Blackstone was educated at Charterhouse School before matriculating at Pembroke...

. It was first published by the Clarendon Press in 1756. A Fellow of All Souls, Oxford, and a lecturer there, on 3 July 1753 Blackstone announced his intentions to give a set of lectures on the common law — the first lectures of that sort in the world. A prospectus was issued on 23 June 1753, and with a class of approximately 20 students, the first lecture series was completed by July 1754. Despite Blackstone's limited oratory skills and a speaking style described by Jeremy Bentham
Jeremy Bentham
Jeremy Bentham was an English jurist, philosopher, and legal and social reformer. He became a leading theorist in Anglo-American philosophy of law, and a political radical whose ideas influenced the development of welfarism...

 as "formal, precise and affected", Blackstone's lectures were warmly appreciated. The second and third series were far more popular, partially due to his then unusual use of printed handouts and lists of suggested reading. These show Blackstone's attempts to reduce English law to a logical system, with the division of subjects later being the basis for his Commentaries. The lecture series brought him £116, £226 and £111 a year respectively from 1753 to 1755 — a total of £ in terms. Seeing the success of this publication, Blackstone was induced to write An Analysis of the Laws of England, a 200-page introduction to English law, which was first published in 1756 by the Clarendon Press.

Analysis begins with a summary of the ways that English law had been subdivided until that time. Blackstone examined the methods of Ranulf de Glanvill, Henry de Bracton
Henry de Bracton
Henry of Bracton, also Henry de Bracton, also Henrici Bracton, or Henry Bratton also Henry Bretton was an English jurist....

 and Matthew Hale
Matthew Hale (jurist)
Sir Matthew Hale SL was an influential English barrister, judge and jurist most noted for his treatise Historia Placitorum Coronæ, or The History of the Pleas of the Crown. Born to a barrister and his wife, who had both died by the time he was 5, Hale was raised by his father's relative, a strict...

, concluding that Hale's method was superior to the others. As such, Hale's distribution "hath therefore been principally followed" [by Blackstone in An Analysis . . ], albeit with some amendments. The treatise is "a marked advance on any previous introduction to English law . . including constitutional, civil and criminal law, public and private law, substantive law and procedure, as well as some introductory jurisprudential content". The initial print run of 1,000 copies almost immediately sold out, leading to the printing of three additional 1,000-book lots over the next three years, which also sold out. A fifth edition was published in 1762, and a sixth, edited to take into account Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England
Commentaries on the Laws of England
The Commentaries on the Laws of England are an influential 18th-century treatise on the common law of England by Sir William Blackstone, originally published by the Clarendon Press at Oxford, 1765–1769...

, in 1771. Many of the later editions were prefaced with copies of Blackstone's A Discourse on the Study of the Law
A Discourse on the Study of the Law
A Discourse on the Study of the Law is a treatise by Sir William Blackstone first published in 1758. On 20 October 1758 Blackstone had been confirmed as the first Vinerian Professor of English Law, and immediately gave a lecture on 24 October, which was reprinted as the Discourse...

, first published in 1758. Because of the success of the Commentaries, Prest remarks that "relatively little scholarly attention has been paid to this work"; at the time, however, it was hailed as "an elegant performance...calculated to facilitate this branch of knowledge".