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University of London International Programmes

Introduction to English Common Law

University of London International Programmes via Coursera


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The common law of England and Wales is one of the major global legal traditions. This MOOC will give you an introduction to this influential legal system including its history, constitutional background, sources and institutions. You’ll learn about the different ways in which laws are made and interpreted, the English court system and the increasing importance of European Union and human rights law. Now is an especially exciting time to be learning about English common law, given the potential changes that lie ahead in today’s political, economic and social environment – all these pose challenges to and opportunities for the law. Each week we’ll focus on one aspect of English common law, using video lectures, readings, discussion questions and activities to enable you to learn about and evaluate key issues. Whether undertaken as a standalone course, or as preparation for the University of London’s world-class LLB degree, you will find this course interesting and stimulating. Please note that participation in or completion of this online course will not confer academic credit for University of London programmes.


  • Week One | Introduction to the English Legal System
    • Welcome to the first week of the course. Week 1 is an overview of the English legal system. We will consider the history of the common law, and look at what it means to say that English law is a common law system. We will also explore some important themes in common law.
  • Week Two | Constitutional Principles of the English Legal System
    • Welcome to the second week of the course. This week will introduce you to the British Constitution and identify its sources. Week 2 will also look at the fundamental constitutional principles which underpin the English Legal System.
  • Week Three | The Court System
    • Welcome to the third week of the course. This week we'll look at how the court system works in England. We'll think about different courts in the system, and also other methods of resolving legal disputes.
  • Week Four | Statutes
    • Welcome to the fourth week of the course. This week will introduce you to statutes or Acts of Parliament, one of the most important sources of English law. Week 4 will cover how statutes are made and the different ways they are interpreted by the courts. You'll also consider whether statutes should be simplified.
  • Week Five | Case Law
    • Welcome to the fifth week of the course. This week we'll explore another key source of English law, case law. You'll be introduced to the doctrine of judicial precedent and the question of judges as law-makers. You'll have the opportunity to read a case yourself and write a case-note.
  • Week Six | The European Union, European Convention on Human Rights and Human Rights Act 1998
    • Welcome to the sixth and final week of the course. This week will introduce you to the European Union and to the European Convention on Human Rights. Week 6 will also consider the impact of the Human Rights Act 1998 on the English Legal System. Although the UK is no longer a member of the European Union and EU law does not have the same impact on English law as it did previously, it will almost certainly contain to exert an influence for some time. It is also interesting to consider the previous effect of EU law on English law, and the relationship to the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty.

Taught by

Charlotte Crilly and Eloise Ellis


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4.8 rating at Coursera based on 1816 ratings

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  • Uliana Danko
    I am an active lawyer in the Roman legal system, and I am interested in learning about the foundations English legal system

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