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William Blackstone in United Kingdom

William Blackstone

Introduction to William Blackstone

Sir William Blackstone (1723-1780), British jurist and legal scholar, whose work Commentaries on the Laws of England was used for more than a century as the foundation of all legal education in Great Britain and the United States.

Sir William Blackstone was born in London on July 10, 1723. He received his education at the University of Oxford. After completing his law studies in 1746 he set up a modest practice while performing administrative services at the university. By 1750 he had published several legal works, and in 1756 his lectures on the laws of England were published under the title An Analysis of the Laws of England. He became the first professor of English law at Oxford in 1758. As his fame spread, his private practice increased, and he received various government appointments.

From 1765 to 1769 Blackstone published the four volumes of his Commentaries, which were immediately successful in both England and the American colonies. The Commentaries provided an introduction to English law in a clear style that was easily understandable to the public. Although the authority of his sources, the accuracy of his statements, and the relevancy of his point of view have been subjected to severe criticism, the Commentaries are still significant as a comprehensive history of English law.

In 1770 Blackstone was appointed a justice of the Court of King’s Bench and shortly thereafter a justice of the Court of Common Pleas. He spent the remainder of his life discharging his judicial duties and working for the reform of England’s prison system. He died on February 14, 1780, in London. See also British Political and Social Thought.” (1)

Alternative Biography

BLACKSTONE, SIR WILLIAM (1723-1780). —Legal Writer, posthumous s. of a silk mercer in London, was ed. at Charterhouse School and Oxf., and entered the Middle Temple in 1741. His great work is his Commentaries on the Laws of England, in 4 vols. (1765-1769), which still remains the best general history of the subject. It had an extraordinary success, and is said to have brought the author £14,000. B. was not a man of original mind, nor was he a profound lawyer; but he wrote an excellent style, clear and dignified, which brings his great work within the category of general literature. He had also a turn for neat and polished verse, of which he gave proof in The Lawyer’s Farewell to his Muse.

Source: A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature

Blackstone’s Commentaries (1765)

William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1765-9); reprinted (London: Dawsons of Pall Mall, 1966). KF385 ZC2 B55 1765A


  • I. Study of the Law
  • II. Nature of Laws in General
  • III. Laws of England IV. Countries subject to the Laws of England

Book I: Rights of Persons

  • I. Absolute Rights of Individuals
  • II. The Parliament
  • III. The King, and his Title IV. The King’s Royal Family
  • V. The Councils belonging to the King
  • VI. The King’s Duties
  • VII. The King’s Prerogative VIII. The King’s Revenue IX. Subordinate Magistrates
  • X. The People, whether Aliens, Denizens, or Natives
  • XI. The Clergy
  • XII. The Civil State XIII. The Military and Maritime States XIV. Master and Servant
  • XV. Husband and Wife
  • XVI. Parent and Child
  • XVII. Guardian and Ward XVIII. Corporations

Book II: The Rights of Things

  • I. Property, in General
  • II. Real Property; and, first, of Corporeal Hereditaments
  • III. Incorporeal Hereditaments
  • IV. The Feodal System
  • V. The Antient English Tenures
  • VI. The Modern English Tenures
  • VII. Freehold Estates, of Inheritance
  • VIII. Freeholds, not of Inheritance
  • IX. Estates, less than Freehold
  • X. Estates upon Condition
  • XI. Estates in Possession, Remainder, and Reversion
  • XII. Estates in Severalty, Joint-Tenancy, Coparcenary, and Common
  • XIII. The Title to Things Real, in General
  • XIV. Title by Descent
  • XV. Title by Purchase; and, first, by Escheat
  • XVI. Title by Occupancy
  • XVII. Title by Prescription
  • XVIII. Title by Forfeiture
  • XIX. Title by Alienation
  • XX. Alienation by Deed
  • XXI. Alienation by Matter of Record
  • XXII. Alienation by Special Custom
  • XXIII. Alienation by Devise
  • XXIV. Things Personal
  • XXV. Property in Things Personal
  • XXVI. Title to Things Personal, by Occupancy
  • XXVII. Title by Prerogative, and Forfeiture
  • XXVIII. Title by Custom
  • XXIX. Title by Succession, Marriage, and Judgment
  • XXX. Title by Gift, Grant, and Contract
  • XXXI. Title by Bankruptcy
  • XXXII. Title by Testament, and Administration

Book III: Private Wrongs

  • I. The Redress of Private Wrongs by the Mere Act of The Parties
  • II. Redress by the Mere Operation of Law
  • III. Courts in General
  • IV. The Public Courts of Common Law and Equity
  • V. Courts Ecclesiastical, Military, and Maritime
  • VI. Courts of a Special Jurisdiction
  • VII. The Cognizance of Private Wrongs
  • VIII. Wrongs, and their Remedies, respecting the Rights of Persons
  • IX. Injuries to Personal Property
  • X. Injuries to Real Property, and first of Dispossession, or Ouster, of The Freehold
  • XI. Dispossession, or Ouster, of Chattels Real
  • XII. Trespass
  • XIII. Nusance
  • XIV. Waste
  • XV. Subtraction
  • XVI. Disturbance
  • XVII. Injuries proceeding from, or affecting, the Crown
  • XVIII. The Pursuit of Remedies by Action; and, first, of The Original Writ
  • XIX. Process
  • XX. Pleading
  • XXI. Issue and Demurrer
  • XXII. The Several Species of Trial
  • XXIII. The Trial by Jury
  • XXIV. Judgment, and it’s Incidents
  • XXV. Proceedings, in the Nature of Appeals
  • XXVI. Execution
  • XXVII. Proceedings in the Courts of Equity

Book IV: Public Wrongs

  • I. The Nature of Crimes; and their Punishment
  • II. The Persons Capable of Committing Crimes
  • III. Principals and Accessories
  • IV. Offences against God and Religion
  • V. Offences against the Law of Nations
  • VI. High Treason
  • VII. Felonies, Injurious to the King’s Prerogative
  • VIII. Praemunire
  • IX. Misprisions and Contempts, affecting the King and Government
  • X. Offences against Public Justice
  • XI. Offences against the Public Peace
  • XII. Offences against Public Trade
  • XIII. Offences against the Public Health, and the Public Police or Oeconomy
  • XIV. Homicide
  • XV. Offences against the Persons of Individuals
  • XVI. Offences against the Habitations of Individuals
  • XVII. Offences against Private Property
  • XVIII. The Means of Preventing Offences
  • XIX. Courts of a Criminal Jurisdiction
  • XX. Summary Convictions
  • XXI. Arrests
  • XXII. Commitment and Bail
  • XXIII. The Several Modes of Prosecution
  • XXIV. Process upon an Indictment
  • XXV. Arraignment, and it’s Incidents
  • XXVI. Plea, and Issue
  • XXVII. Trial, and Conviction
  • XXVIII. The Benefit of Clergy
  • XXIX. Judgment, and it’s Consequences
  • XXX. Reversal of Judgment
  • XXXI. Reprieve and Pardon
  • XXXII. Execution
  • XXXIII. The Rise, Progress, and Gradual Improvements, of The Laws of England


Notes and References

Guide to William Blackstone

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  • Article Name: William Blackstone
  • Author: Danny W.
  • Description: Introduction to William Blackstone Sir William Blackstone (1723-1780), British jurist and legal scholar, whose work [...]

This entry was last updated: January 16, 2018


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