Probably the earliest transfers of title were accomplished by the stronger taking possession from the weaker. This system was unjust and as society developed, protection was given to the owner in preserving his possession. Under the feudal system the sovereign or king owned all the land. He parcelled out the land to his lords who in turn each subdivided his portion among his retainers. This subdivision went on indefinitely. No one had any title save the king. Each had only a "feud" or right to possess the land during the pleasure of his overlord; the tenant being bound to give his superior aid and fealty, the superior to protect the tenant. The tenant could not even give up his possession or transfer it without his overlord's consent. The evils of this system finally resulted in laws by which it was made possible for a tenant to sell his holding and substitute another in his place.

The early method by which a transfer of realty was accomplished, was by mere delivery of possession. A man who had been in possession of land for many years, and whose claim to it had never been questioned, was presumed to be its owner. No one could contradict his claim of title. This is the foundation of our present law of "title by adverse possession." If such owner desired to sell he simply delivered to the purchaser a clod of earth from the land, in the presence of witnesses, saying at the time some appropriate words such as, "I put you in possession of this land." This was as nearly an actual delivery as the subject matter of sale would permit.