Saturday, January 15, 2011

Laws That Changed The World

The Ten Commandments. Taken down by Moses, leader of the Jewish people in exile. This became a key feature of western civilisation.

1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.
3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
5. Honour thy father and thy mother.
6. Thou shalt not kill.
7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
8. Thou shalt not steal.
9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
10. Thou shalt not covet.

Solonian Constitution

Introduced by Solon, an Athenian statesman in the 6th Century BC. They reversed harsher more oppressive laws currently operating in Athens. They abolished debt and debt slaves. It reduced the power of the old aristocracy creating positions based on wealth and merit rather than birth.

Magna Carta

This ground-breaking set of laws was first signed in 1215 AD. It can be seen as an important step in placing limits on the power of kings who previously had 'divine authority'. However, the Magna Carta required the King to proclaim certain rights to his subjects. Some of the key rights included in the Magna Carta included right to a fair trial, Habeas Corpus and the right to appeal against unlawful imprisonment.

Sharia Law

The legal aspect of Islam, the world's second largest religion. It provides a legal framework for a legal system based on Islamic principles from business, family to the criminal system. Sharia law is implemented to various degrees in Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Sudan. It has created differences of opinion with more liberal concepts of justice and human rights.

The Napoleonic Code.

A comprehensive and formal set of laws that carefully noted a wide range of legal laws. This overcame a previously haphazard system of laws and customs that enabled more miscarriages of justice. With the success of Napoleon and the French army, the Napoleonic code spread throughout Europe and became a very significant development in modern law as we know. The Napoleonic code forbade privileges based on heredity birth. It allowed freedom of religion and said government jobs should go to the most privileged.

Other Key Individual Laws

Conscription. - Requiring men to fight for their country or risk imprisonment or even death. e.g. in US during World War One, World War Two, and Vietnam.

One Man One Vote. Laws that enshrine the equality of the people in a society. e.g. South Africa 1994 - first free and fair elections since system of apartheid.

Universal Suffrage. Giving women the vote was a key development in twentieth century democracy.
  • UK women were given right to vote in some local elections in 1869. Married women over 30 in 1919. Universal suffrage in 1928
  • New Zealand 1893 was the first major countries to give universal suffrage to women
Welfare State. The idea the government was responsible for giving aid to the destitute and unemployed. e.g. the Liberal government's pension

e.g. National Insurance Act 1911 - health and unemployment insurance
1913, Trade Union Act helped recognise legal status of trades unions and the right to strike.
Old Age Pensions Act 1908

Though welfare reforms were not comprehensive and sometimes did not cover the most vulnerable. They did mark a shift away from a 'laissez faire' state to that where government took responsibility.


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