The Oxford Dictionary and Encyclopaedia of Law


Law is the system of rules imposed by society or government to regulate behavior. It includes civil and criminal laws, constitutional law, and international law. The study of law encompasses not only the statutory, but also the customary and ethical aspects of legal systems.

In modern times law can be seen as a form of social control, a means to achieve social justice, or even a tool of oppression (e.g. in regimes like Burma or Zimbabwe). The law is a complex and controversial field, and its precise definition remains a matter of long-standing debate.

Oxford Reference offers concise, expert definitions and detailed encyclopedic entries on the subject of law. With coverage of 34,000+ terms, our comprehensive dictionary and encyclopedia provide authoritative, accessible information on the key issues in law today.

Our expert-written Law articles cover topics such as:

The Law is the set of rules that a particular country or community recognizes as regulating the actions of its members. It is a vast and varied field. It covers everything from a worker’s right to strike to the constitutional limits on the power of the state. It is a subject of constant change, and a topic that demands high-quality, in-depth research.

Law is inextricably linked to human action, as it cannot mandate behaviours that are beyond people’s capabilities or impose a punishment that has not been merited by a person’s actions. It is also dependent on the shape of the physical world, and there is a fundamental limit to its empirical verification.