Medieval England presents the student of legal history with a number of interesting peculiarities. Among these are the common law and the schools where it was taught, the Inns of Court. English law was the only native law in medieval Europe, functioning distinctly from both civil and canon law. It was judge-made, and followed the case-law method peculiar to it, distinct from the codification system of civil and canon law. Its schools, the Inns of Court, were, in Christendom, the only law schools of their kind that came out of the Middle Ages into modern times. These and other features belonged to England alone among all the nations of Europe. Strangely enough, it shared these features only with Islam. The extant sources contain no direct evidence of a connection between the two systems. Yet the similarities between them were peculiar to them alone; of this there can be no doubt. This paper will discuss two problems in the legal history of classical Islam and medieval England: one concerns the question of the existence of guilds in medieval Baghdad; the other concerns the origin of the Inns of Court in medieval London. I hope to show that the two problems are interconnected through a set of similar attributes, and that each present’s elements susceptible of shedding light on the other. This effort may help to dispel the doubt as to the existence of Islamic guilds, while suggesting an answer to the problem of the origins of the Inns of Court. English legal historians have pointed out that the origins of their legal profession are "exceedingly obscure" and that, in the attempt to trace its development in England, "continental analogies afford no guidance."


Conference on Comparative Links between Islamic Law and the Common Law: Legal History of Islamic Law and the English Common Law: Origins and Metamorphoses