Mercantile law in Britain evolved differently than the other commercial laws in Continental Europe but the Law Merchant has been its foundation of both legal systems: there is an embodiment of the Law Merchant values within the domestic legal systems that were in line with state policy, national interests and domestic mores. The English law of sale of goods traces its roots from the lex mercatoria or ancient mercantile law and is predominantly based on principles developed by the law of contract.
The law of sale of goods can be found in one statutory code. In 1893, the English Parliament passed the Sale of Goods Act, which was designed to codify the common law on the sale of goods in order to state the effect of the decisions of the courts in a succinct and statutory form. This code has been amended several times and most of the cases herein, particularly those from the pre-1893 period, may not necessarily be referenced. In 1979, a new Sale of Goods Act was passed but that this was a consolidating measure which simply brought together in a tidy form the 1893 Act as it had been amended between 1893 and 1979 and made no changes in the law itself. (Furmston 2000, p. 2) Indeed, with only a couple of exceptions, the section numbers of the 1893 and 1979 Sale of Goods Acts are identical. Technically, the law of sale of goods is, for the most part, an exposition of the effect of the Sale of Goods Act of 1979. The Act states that:
First, commercial law is clear and predictable, providing a firm body of rules on which traders can depend. Secondly, it contains a strong and positive law of contract to uphold trading agreements. Thirdly, the law has been shaped by the needs and expectations of merchants, and much business practice has been incorporated into law. Fourthly, Parliament and the courts have made genuine innovations to lead the market economy forward, building on business practices to provide strong frameworks for the industry. (p. 347-348)