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writs. The writ was originally an administrative command issued by the king to a subject, often an official such as the sheriff. After the Norman Conquest, and especially after the reign of Henry I, the king might issue a writ to permit a subject to have his case heard before the king's person or his curia regis. In the reign of Henry II it became necessary for any person seeking to bring an action against another in relation to title to freehold land to obtain the king's writ to institute proceedings. After this, the issue of writs by the Chancery or writ office became the regular way of obtaining a hearing in the king's court. The common law was built up from the collection of writs issued by Chancery and the ‘Register of Writs’, which grew from the reign of Henry III, formed the basis of the common law. Each writ had its own procedure and special features. At times the Chancery was more ready to grant new writs, but after the development of Parliament and the provisions of Oxford 1258, it became less easy to obtain new writs. However, the story of the common law is the story of the development of new writs or ‘forms of action’ and their acceptance by the courts.

Maureen Mulholland

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