HOME
        TheInfoList






Frederic William Maitland FBA (28 May 1850 – c. 19 December 1906) was an English historian and lawyer who is regarded as the modern father of English legal history.[1][2]

Early life and education, 1850–72

Frederic William Maitland was born at 53 Guilford Street, London in 1850, the only son and second of three children of John Gorham Maitland and of Emma, daughter of Guilford Street, London in 1850, the only son and second of three children of John Gorham Maitland and of Emma, daughter of John Frederic Daniell. His grandfather was Samuel Roffey Maitland. Maitland's father was a barrister but, having little practice, became a civil servant, serving as secretary to the Civil Service Commission.

Maitland was educated at a preparatory school in Brighton before entering Eton College in 1863, where Edward Daniel Stone was his private tutor. At Eton, Maitland was not prominent either academically or athletically, although a close school friend thought he would become "a kind of philosophic Charles Lamb". He then matriculated at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1869 as a commoner. A dislike of classics acquired at Eton initially led him to read mathematics, with little success. Then, inspired by Henry Sidgwick, he switched to the relatively new moral sciences tripos in 1870, and took first-class honours in 1872, being bracketed senior with his friend William Cunningham; he was elected a scholar of his college the same year. The following year, he took his degree and won the Whewell Scholarship in international law.[3]

Popular among his contemporaries, Maitland was elected secretary, then president, of the Cambridge Union.[4] He was also, like his father before him, a Cambridge Apostle. A lover of exercise since his Eton days, he rowed for Trinity and ran for the university, winning a blue for representing the university in three-mile races.

Maitland's mother had died in 1851, shortly after the birth of his younger sister. Then, both his father and grandfather died when he was still at school. From his grandfather he inherited a manor house and some land in Brookthorpe, Gloucestershire. The estate provided him with an income until the agricultural depression in the 1880s.

Career at the bar and early efforts, 1872–84

Career at the bar

After Cambridge, Maitland tried to gain a fellowship in philosophy at Trinity College in 1875 with a dissertation entitled A Historical Sketch of Liberty and Equality: As Ideals of English Political Philosophy from the Time of Hobbes to the Time of Coleridge, but was beaten out by fellow Apostle James Ward. Having joined Lincoln's Inn as a student in 1872, he was called to the bar there in 1876, and became a competent equity lawyer and conveyancer.

Meanwhile, encouraged by Sidgwick, he began a book on property law, but abandoned it out of frustration at certain features of English property l

Maitland was educated at a preparatory school in Brighton before entering Eton College in 1863, where Edward Daniel Stone was his private tutor. At Eton, Maitland was not prominent either academically or athletically, although a close school friend thought he would become "a kind of philosophic Charles Lamb". He then matriculated at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1869 as a commoner. A dislike of classics acquired at Eton initially led him to read mathematics, with little success. Then, inspired by Henry Sidgwick, he switched to the relatively new moral sciences tripos in 1870, and took first-class honours in 1872, being bracketed senior with his friend William Cunningham; he was elected a scholar of his college the same year. The following year, he took his degree and won the Whewell Scholarship in international law.[3]

Popular among his contemporaries, Maitland was elected secretary, then president, of the Cambridge Union.[4] He was also, like his father before him, a Cambridge Apostle. A lover of exercise since his Eton days, he rowed for Trinity and ran for the university, winning a blue for representing the university in three-mile races.

Maitland's mother had died in 1851, shortly after the birth of his younger sister. Then, both his father and grandfather died when he was still at school. From his grandfather he inherited a manor house and some land in Brookthorpe, Gloucestershire. The estate provided him with an income until the agricultural depression in the 1880s.

After Cambridge, Maitland tried to gain a fellowship in philosophy at Trinity College in 1875 with a dissertation entitled A Historical Sketch of Liberty and Equality: As Ideals of English Political Philosophy from the Time of Hobbes to the Time of Coleridge, but was beaten out by fellow Apostle James Ward. Having joined Lincoln's Inn as a student in 1872, he was called to the bar there in 1876, and became a competent equity lawyer and conveyancer.

Meanwhile, encouraged by Sidgwick, he began a book on property law, but abandoned it out of frustration at certain features of English property law; he expressed these sentiments in an anonymous article in the Westminster Review in 1879, described as "a bold, eloquent, and humorous plea for a sweeping change in the English law of Real Property". It was followed by three further articles in the Law Magazine and Review between 1881 and 1883.

Meeting with Vinogradoff

In 1889, Maitland was invited by Henry Maxwell Lyte, the Deputy Keeper of the Public Records, to examine and edit the petitions presented to Edward I's parliament.

In 1889, Maitland was invited by Henry Maxwell Lyte, the Deputy Keeper of the Public Records, to examine and edit the petitions presented to Edward I's parliament. Maitland quickly determined that the task was too large to be completed by one man. However, by chance he discovered a hitherto-unpublished parliament roll from 1305, which he edited and published in 1883 as part of the Rolls Series. This formed the basis of what Elton described as his "most explosive contribution to English history."

At the time, it was generally believed that early English parliaments were, from the beginning, an assembly of the estates of the realm who met to discuss affairs of state. This view had been laid down by Stubbs, who based his view on the 12

At the time, it was generally believed that early English parliaments were, from the beginning, an assembly of the estates of the realm who met to discuss affairs of state. This view had been laid down by Stubbs, who based his view on the 1295 "Model Parliament". In his introduction to the 1305 roll, Maitland instead proposed that early English parliaments were judicial bodies which met mainly to receive petitions to address grievances. Though the revolutionary nature of Maitland's suggestion was only realised later, most historians have come to accept Maitland's view.

On 13 October 1888, Maitland gave his inaugural lecture as Downing Professor of the Laws of England. Pointing out that "no attempt has ever been made to write the history of English law as a whole", he proposed two causes: the insularity of English law and the conflicting logics of the lawyer and of the historian.

Assessment

Maitland was held in high regard by his contemporaries. Lord Acton called him the ablest historian in En

Maitland was held in high regard by his contemporaries. Lord Acton called him the ablest historian in England.

Maitland's reputation has stood high since his death. Speaking in 1980, S. F. C. Milsom said that Maitland is "not just revered but loved" by historians, while in 1985, Sir Geoffrey Elton wrote of Maitl

Maitland's reputation has stood high since his death. Speaking in 1980, S. F. C. Milsom said that Maitland is "not just revered but loved" by historians, while in 1985, Sir Geoffrey Elton wrote of Maitland as the "patron saint" of historians.

Beginning in the 1960s, scholars such as S. F. C. Milsom and Patrick Wormald began to point out shortcomings in Maitland's views, which had by then become the orthodoxy, although the criticisms were inevitably coupled with sincere admiration for Maitland. The highly technical nature of Maitland's work, as well as the relative decline of legal history, made Maitland's views "lasting orthodoxies", as few historians had either the technical knowledge or the inclination to challenge them. Speaking on the centenary of the publication of Pollock and Maitland, Milsom said that:

"if we go on as we are, we can look forward to our successors celebrating the bicentenary of 'Pollock and Maitland' as still the last word on the history of English law in its most crucial period. I wonder whether he would be pleased."

During his lifetime, Maitland received honorary doctorates from the universities of Cambridge (1891), Oxford (1899), Glasgow (1896), Moscow and Kracow. He was one of the founding fellows of the British Academy in 1902, and was a corresponding member of the Royal Prussian Academy of the Arts and of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities. He was also an honorary fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge and an honorary bencher of Lincoln's Inn. On the latter honour, Maitland wrote to Pollock that "one of the vacant bishoprics would have been less of a surprise". Just before his death Maitland received the Ames Medal from Harvard Law School, and at the time of the death he had been invited by Oxford to deliver the Romanes Lecture.

After his death, the F. W. Maitland Memorial Fund was established at Cambridge in 1907 to promote research in legal history. It continues to award grants and studentships for that purpose. In 2000, a Maitland Legal History Room was established within the Squire Law Library of the

After his death, the F. W. Maitland Memorial Fund was established at Cambridge in 1907 to promote research in legal history. It continues to award grants and studentships for that purpose. In 2000, a Maitland Legal History Room was established within the Squire Law Library of the Faculty of Law at the University of Cambridge. The Maitland Historical Society of Downing College, Cambridge, is also named in his honour.

At Oxford, a Maitland Library, begun with 300 books from Maitland's personal library, was established in 1908. Originally housed at All Souls College, Oxford, it was eventually taken over by the Bodleian Library, and was maintained as a separate collection until 1933.

In 2001, a memorial stone for Maitland was unveiled in Poet's Corner, Westminster Abbey; he was the first professional historian to be so honoured.[10] The stone, cut by Richard Kindersley, is inscribed with a quote from Doomsday Book and Beyond: "By slow degrees the thoughts of our forefathers their common thoughts about common things will have become thinkable once more".

His principal works include:[7]