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English Law before 1900

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Chapter Summary

Although English law was not affected hugely by the civilian tradition, it was familiar with a rule comparable to the alteri stipulari-rule on the continent, viz. privity of contract or the parties only-rule. This principle, i.e. that only a party to the contract can obtain any enforceable rights under it, was predominantly present in the English law of the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth centuries. This chapter embarks on the history of third-party benefits, and provides the essential framework within which the English law has to be understood. Until the second half of the eighteenth century, English law was primarily a law of actions. Common law claims were framed within writs, and legal rules were associated with writs rather than with abstract categories. The law before the eighteenth century was not really concerned with contract rights at all, let alone the contract rights of third parties.

Keywords: alteri stipulari-rule; civilian tradition; contract rights; eighteenth century; English law; law of actions; legal rules; third-party benefits; writs



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