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How did Henry II reform the English legal system?

Henry II reformed the English legal system by introducing common law, jury trials, and the circuit court system.

Henry II, who reigned from 1154 to 1189, is often credited with laying the foundations of the English legal system as we know it today. His reforms were revolutionary for their time and had a profound impact on the development of law and justice in England.

One of the most significant reforms was the introduction of 'common law'. Prior to Henry II's reign, laws varied greatly from one region to another, and justice was often arbitrary. Henry II established a unified system of law that was 'common' to the whole country. This was achieved by sending royal judges around the country to hear cases and make rulings based on a consistent set of legal principles. These principles were then recorded and used as precedents in future cases, creating a body of law that was common to all.

Henry II also introduced the concept of jury trials. Before his reign, disputes were often settled by trial by ordeal or combat, which were based on superstition rather than evidence. Henry II replaced these with a system where a group of local men, known as a jury, would be called upon to review the facts of a case and make a decision. This was a significant step towards a more rational and evidence-based system of justice.

Another major reform was the establishment of the circuit court system. Henry II sent his royal judges on regular 'circuits' around the country to hear cases. This ensured that justice was accessible to people in all parts of the country, not just those living near the royal court. It also helped to enforce the common law by ensuring that the same legal principles were applied consistently across the country.

In summary, Henry II's reforms transformed the English legal system. He introduced common law, jury trials, and the circuit court system, laying the foundations for a system of law and justice that is still in place today. His reforms were a significant step towards a more rational, consistent, and accessible system of justice.

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