This section is from the book "The Law Of Contracts", by William Herbert Page. Also available from Amazon: Commercial Contracts: A Practical Guide to Deals, Contracts, Agreements and Promises.
Two reasons may be suggested for the fact that the king's court succeeded in doing justice without enforcing executory contracts. In the two centuries that followed the Norman Conquest, land was the basis of social organization, government and private rights. Our law attempts to distinguish sharply between public duties growing out of the relation between subject and state, and the rights which arise out of private property. Under the feudal organization of society these were looked upon as almost identical. The strength of the early English kings enabled them to succeed in their royal anti-feudal policy where the kings on the continent failed. Even in England the strength of the feudal organization produced a profound effect on all branches of law. Practically all personal services of every sort took the form of land tenure. In place of contracts for work and labor of the modern law, we find land held by tenure of rendering services for the overlord. At a time at which interest could not be recovered, the favorite means by which a land owner borrowed money was by granting a lease for years at a nominal rental in consideration of the present payment of money. The analogy was carried still farther. Contracts for support either in money or in kind were treated as grants of realty and this theory was extended even to cases in which no charge was made upon any corporeal realty to secure payment.1 Since the great bulk of the English people held land by one tenure or another, and since a great number of the contracts of the land holding classes took the form of tenure or grants of interest in realty or of grants of incorporeal rights, which were looked upon as real property, we find that as a matter of fact many of the transactions which are to-day effected by simple executory contracts are present in the law of the king's courts; but in land law and not in contract law. We find cases on these points in the early abridgments, but not under headings which suggest their connection with contract.