Outside of the great areas covered by the supernatural systems of the civil law and the uncommon law, there are a great many civilized communities which have maintained a traditional national law derived from their own history and morally closely associated with the prevailing religion.
In China and Japan, these national laws have been in recent times recast under Western influences and have absorbed many Western elements. In India, a much more complicated situation is present. Much of the law of obligation and of commerce was codified in the nineteenth century during British domination and for the most part is common law, and the same may be said for the penal law.
But in the literally hundreds of separate Indian communities, family, property, and inheritance law is based on ancient and traditional rules. The Muslim parts of India, now gathered into the separate country of Pakistan, like most Muslim communities in Asia, Africa, and Indonesia, have maintained a traditional law which has an intimate association with the religious organization.
The situation is not unlike that presented by the relation of secular law to canon law in Europe, except that little attempt is made to separate the two types of jurisdiction.
In all these instances, there is a large literature and an elaborately written transmission of doctrinal commentaries, collections of judgments, and statutes or ordinances. A professional group of judgments, and statutes or ordinances.
A professional group of lawyers, however, assigned definitely and exclusively to these matters, seems not to have been established.
In all these countries, the Western commercial codes are generally accepted, and a gradual similarity is developing between their penal and civil laws and those of the rest of the civilized world. This is important because it facilitates reciprocal recognition of the validity of judgments between the countries of the civil law and common law and these other areas.
The absence of such recognition is a serious bar to international cooperation.
Outside of China, Japan, India, and Islam, there are innumerable groups of more or less primitive peoples living by a traditional and orally transmitted set of customs, many of which could be called “legal.” In most instances, these tribes are not sufficiently organized to be recognized as national units.
A study of the laws of these tribes is extremely difficult, because, as has already been pointed out, no differentiation exists between what we class as law and what we class as morals, manners, religion, or economic habits.
Again, there is a far greater diversity between the laws of various primitive peoples than is found between those of different civilized peoples. General statements are difficult to make with any assurance, but the study of primitive customs has always been and will continue to be in an even greater measure a valuable aid in the understanding of the law.