The Oxford Reference Guide to Law


Law is a system of rules that a country or community recognizes as regulating the actions of its people. It is a complex area of study, with many distinct topics and disciplinary areas.

Definition of Law

The precise definition of law is a topic of ongoing debate. However, most people agree that a law is a set of rules, made by a government or society, and that citizens must follow them or face punishment.

There are several categories of laws: criminal, civil, and administrative. The most commonly used category is civil law, which consists of regulations that affect persons and relationships.

Public laws are enacted by a government and enforced by courts. They are primarily in the form of statutes or acts passed by legislatures. Private individuals can also enact contracts that are enforceable in courts.

Business law involves regulation and enforcement of commercial, economic and legal issues. This includes such topics as corporate law, banking and financial law, taxation, employment law and intellectual property.

Defining Law

The Oxford Reference guide to law provides authoritative, concise definitions and in-depth, specialist encyclopedia entries on all major terms, concepts, processes and organizations within this broad discipline. Our coverage is comprehensive, accessible, and complemented by charts and chronologies wherever useful. It is based on the latest research and written by leading experts for researchers at every level. We include authoritative and up-to-date information on subjects including criminal law, tax and social security law, international law, family and employment law, and major debates in legal theory.

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