Sometime around the year 1469, Giovanni Andrea, the Papal Librarian at the Vatican, noted that the Middle Ages were at an end and the modern world had just begun. From his standpoint at the intellectual centre of Christendom, a major transition was occurring.
All across Europe, Law, too, was in a state of transition at this time. We may take as our starting point an early piece of evidence of these changes which comes from the Southern Netherlands. It comes from the small village of St Peters, a village in which legal disputes were decided by local alderman, men who had had no formal legal training but who were very experienced in applying the customary law of the area. An issue had arisen whether a legal right of way had been gained by long use.