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The Oxford History of the Laws of England: Volume XI1820–1914 English Legal System$
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William Cornish, J Stuart Anderson, Ray Cocks, Michael Lobban, Patrick Polden, and Keith Smith

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199258819

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199258819.001.0001

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Local Government

Local Government

(p.423) V Local Government
The Oxford History of the Laws of England: Volume XI

Stuart Anderson

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses local government in the 19th century. At the beginning of the period there was local authority, exercised through the key Hanoverian agencies of the justices of the peace and the officers of the parish vestries. In the counties this was the rule of landed property in legal form. Most urban areas with municipal corporations would have a separate magistracy; many had their own quarter sessions that excluded the county justices. In these towns, rule, so far as it went, was usually in the hands of a local oligarchy of the more substantial tradesmen. Overlapping the municipal corporations were local improvement commissioners. These had been created under myriad local Acts of Parliament at the behest of the propertied citizens of each place, with functions that in a different political culture might have been exercised by the corporations. At the end of the 19th century there was instead a network of local authorities of more or less stereotyped legal form, to a contested degree the agents of central government, more usually possessing considerable local autonomy and a legitimacy based on local election.

Keywords:   English law, local government, municipal corporations, parishes, vestries, local boards, county government, legal history

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