The Study of Law

The study of the system of rules that a particular country or community recognises as regulating the actions of its members. Its principal function is to provide a framework for a harmonious society, and to enforce its rules when they are broken. The law is not a fixed thing: it changes over time as new problems emerge and as the prevailing social and political theories change.

A large number of legal systems exist in the world, and each has its own distinctive features. Oxford Reference offers expert-written, concise definitions and in-depth encyclopedic entries covering all the major aspects of law—from constitutional and criminal laws to international treaties and human rights law, from family and employment laws to taxation law and commercial law.

The law is not just about written rules, however; it also embodies the values of a culture and the judgments of its judges. The life of a law is not governed by logic, and there are many debates about the moral and ethical assumptions underlying the law of a nation and its judicial system (for example, whether it is right or wrong for judges to have personal opinions on matters that they have to rule on).