The History of the Common Law of England:

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by Matthew Hale

Sir Matthew Hale (1609- 1676) attended Lincoln’s Inn to study the law in the footsteps of his father, who had died when Hale was a very young age.[1] While studying at Lincoln’s Inn, Hale became very close with the attorney general, William Noy (d. 1634).[2] Noy is believed to have helped shape Hale’s love for medieval transcripts.[3] This would later lead to Hale’s work on a large amount of legal literature. Hale entered the bar in 1636 after the normal seven years of schooling.[4] In 1671, Sir Matthew Hale became the chief justice of the Court of King’s Bench, a well-deserved role considering the amount of writing he was doing on criminal law as well as the common law.[5]

The History of the Common Law of England was not published until a decade after Hale’s death, but it is thought to have been "quite widely circulated."[6] The book was the first attempt to compile a comprehensive look at the common law and was the standard until the late nineteenth century.[7] The History of the Common Law was considered slightly biased because it only included what Hale thought was formative—the twelfth and thirteenth century work and nothing from the Tudor-Stuart era.[8]

Bibliographic Information

Author: Matthew Hale.

Title: The History of the Common Law of England Divided into Twelve Chapters.

Publication Info: London, In the Savoy: printed by E. and R. Nutt, and R. Gosling, (assigns of Edw. Sayer, Esq); for T. Waller, 1739.

Edition: Third edition, corrected.

Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy

Re-bound in period-design marbleized paper over boards, beautifully re-backed in leather with leather tips and spine label. Purchased from Museum Books LLC.

View this book in William & Mary's online catalog.

External Links

Google Books


  1. A. Cromartie, “Hale, Sir Mathew (b.c 1609 d. in 1676)” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004- ), accessed October 9, 2013.
  2. H. Flander, “Sir Matthew Hale,” University of Pennsylvania Law Review and American Law Register 56 (1908), 6.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Cromartie, “Hale, Sir Mathew."
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Harold J. Berman, "The Origins of Historical Jurisprudence: Coke, Selden, Hale," Yale Law Journal 103 (1994), 7.
  8. Ibid.