From ancient Mesopotamia to today, the epic story of how humans have used laws to forge civilizations  
 
Rulers throughout history have used laws to impose order. But laws were not simply instruments of power and social control. They also offered ordinary people a way to express their diverse visions for a better world.  
 
In The Rule of Laws, Oxford scholar Fernanda Pirie traces the rise and fall of the sophisticated legal systems underpinning ancient empires and religious traditions, while also showing how common people—tribal assemblies, merchants, farmers—called on laws to define their communities, regulate trade, and build civilizations. Although legal principles originating in Western Europe now seem to dominate the globe, the variety of the world’s laws has long been almost as great as the variety of its societies. What truly unites human beings, Pirie argues, is our very faith that laws can produce justice, combat oppression, and create order from chaos.  

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Reader Reviews

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"The Rule of Laws is a fascinating, comprehensive study that forces us to think again about what law is, and why it matters. Far from being a dry set of rules, Fernanda Pirie argues, law is nothing less than a way of creating order and civilization. For those who want to understand why human society has emerged as it has, this is essential reading.”—Rana Mitter, University of Oxford
"The Rule of Laws offers a pathbreaking and stimulating account of how societies across different regions and epochs drew upon secular, sacred, and scholarly traditions to create laws that organized the lives of their citizens. Pirie leads readers across five millennia to show the diverse and sophisticated legal systems developed in states across Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas before explaining how the European-derived legal structures of our time achieved a rather unlikely and historically anomalous global dominance. This expansive narrative challenges what we think we know about legal history and the assumptions we make about law’s future.”—Edward J. Watts, author of Mortal Republic: How Rome Fell into Tyranny
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