Frederic William Maitland
Frederic William Maitland (28 May 1850 – 19 December 1906) was an English
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

A jurist or jurisconsult is a professional who studies, develops, applies, or otherwise deals with the law. The term is widely used in American English, but in the United Kingdom and many Commonwealth countries it has only historical and specialist usage...

 and historian
A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all history in time. If the individual is...

, generally regarded as the modern father of English legal history.


He was the son of John Gorham Maitland (1818–1863), and was educated at Eton
Eton College
Eton College, often referred to simply as Eton, is a British independent school for boys aged 13 to 18. It was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI as "The King's College of Our Lady of Eton besides Wyndsor"....

 and Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. Trinity has more members than any other college in Cambridge or Oxford, with around 700 undergraduates, 430 graduates, and over 170 Fellows...

, being bracketed at the head of the moral sciences tripos
The University of Cambridge, England, divides the different kinds of honours bachelor's degree by Tripos , plural Triposes. The word has an obscure etymology, but may be traced to the three-legged stool candidates once used to sit on when taking oral examinations...

 of 1872, and winning a Whewell
William Whewell
William Whewell was an English polymath, scientist, Anglican priest, philosopher, theologian, and historian of science. He was Master of Trinity College, Cambridge.-Life and career:Whewell was born in Lancaster...

 scholarship for international law.

He was called to the bar (Lincoln's Inn
Lincoln's Inn
The Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn is one of four Inns of Court in London to which barristers of England and Wales belong and where they are called to the Bar. The other three are Middle Temple, Inner Temple and Gray's Inn. Although Lincoln's Inn is able to trace its official records beyond...

) in 1876, and became a competent equity lawyer and conveyancer, but finally devoted himself to comparative jurisprudence
Jurisprudence is the theory and philosophy of law. Scholars of jurisprudence, or legal theorists , hope to obtain a deeper understanding of the nature of law, of legal reasoning, legal systems and of legal institutions...

 and especially the history of English law. In 1884 he was appointed reader in English law at Cambridge, and in 1888 became Downing professor of the laws of England. Despite his generally poor health, his intellectual grasp and wide knowledge and research gradually made him famous as a jurist and historian.

The Squire Law Library of the Faculty of Law at the University of Cambridge contains the Maitland Legal History Room named after him.

He edited many volumes for the Selden Society
Selden Society
The Selden Society is the only learned society to be devoted to the study of English legal history.The Society was founded in 1887 by FW Maitland. The main activity of the Society is publishing historical records of English law. Since the society's inception, a volume of interesting and important...

, including Select Pleas for the Crown, 1200–1225 and Select Pleas in Manorial Courts and The Court Baron. His principal works include:
  • Gloucester Pleas (1884)
  • Justice and Police (1885)
  • Bracton's Note-Book (1887) (Reissued by Cambridge University Press
    Cambridge University Press
    Cambridge University Press is the publishing business of the University of Cambridge. Granted letters patent by Henry VIII in 1534, it is the world's oldest publishing house, and the second largest university press in the world...

    , 2010. ISBN 9781108010313)
  • History of English Law before the Time of Edward I (with Sir Frederick Pollock, 1895; new ed. 1898; see also his article "English Law" in the Encyclopædia Britannica
    Encyclopædia Britannica
    The Encyclopædia Britannica , published by Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., is a general knowledge English-language encyclopaedia that is available in print, as a DVD, and on the Internet. It is written and continuously updated by about 100 full-time editors and more than 4,000 expert...

    . Reissued by Cambridge University Press
    Cambridge University Press
    Cambridge University Press is the publishing business of the University of Cambridge. Granted letters patent by Henry VIII in 1534, it is the world's oldest publishing house, and the second largest university press in the world...

    , 2010. ISBN 9781108018074)
  • Domesday Book and Beyond (1897)
  • Township and Borough (1898)
  • Canon Law in England (1898)
  • English Law and the Renaissance (1901)
  • Charters of the Borough of Cambridge (1901) (Reissued by Cambridge University Press
    Cambridge University Press
    Cambridge University Press is the publishing business of the University of Cambridge. Granted letters patent by Henry VIII in 1534, it is the world's oldest publishing house, and the second largest university press in the world...

    , 2010. ISBN 9781108010436)
  • Life of Leslie Stephen (1906).

He also made important contributions to the Cambridge Modern History
Cambridge Modern History
The Cambridge Modern History is a comprehensive modern history of the world, beginning with the 15th century age of Discovery, published by the Cambridge University Press in the United Kingdom and also in the United States....

, the English Historical Review, the Law Quarterly Review, Harvard Law Review and other publications. Maitland delivered the Ford Lectures
Ford Lectures
The Ford Lectures are a prestigious series of public lectures given annually in English or British History by a distinguished historian. Known commonly as "The Ford Lectures," they are properly titled "Ford's Lectures in British History" and they are given by a scholar elected to be "Ford's...

 in 1897.

Posthumous publications by his students, editing their lecture notes based on his lectures, include The Constitutional History of England, Equity, and The Forms of Action at Common Law.

His written style was elegant and lively. His historical method was distinguished by his thorough and sensitive use of historical sources, and by his determinedly historical perspective. Maitland taught his students, and all later historians, not to investigate the history of law purely or mostly by reference to the needs of the present, but rather to consider and seek to understand the past on its own terms. His death in 1906 at Gran Canaria
Gran Canaria
Gran Canaria is the second most populous island of the Canary Islands, with a population of 838,397 which constitutes approximately 40% of the population of the archipelago...

 from tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...

 deprived English law and letters of an outstanding representative.

He married Florence Henrietta Fisher and they had two daughters, Ermengard and Fredegond
Fredegond Shove
Fredegond Shove was an English poet.Fredegond was the daughter of the historian Frederic William Maitland and his wife Florence Henrietta Fisher. She married the economist Gerald Shove....

; after Maitland's death his widow married Francis Darwin, the son of Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin FRS was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.He published his theory...


The world-famous Maitland Historical Society of Downing College, Cambridge, is named in honour of Frederic Maitland.

Further reading

Biographical essays include:
  • Paul Vinogradoff
    Paul Vinogradoff
    Sir Paul Vinogradoff  November 1854, Kostroma, Russia– 19 December 1925, Paris, France) was a highly reputable Anglo-Russian historian-medievalist.-Career:...

    's article on Maitland in the English Historical Review (1907);
  • Sir Frederick Pollock's in the Quarterly Review (1907);
  • G. T. Lapsley's in The Green Bag (Boston, Mass., 1907);
  • A. L. Smith
    A. L. Smith
    Sir Archibald Levin Smith was a British judge and a rower who competed at Henley and in the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race.-Biography:...

    , F. W. Maitland (1908);
  • H. A. L. Fisher, F. W. Maitland (1910);
  • Robert Livingston Schuyler
    Robert Livingston Schuyler
    Dr. Robert Livingston Schuyler was a prominent scholar of early American history and British history of the same time period. He was an educator and an editor. He spent most of his academic career at Columbia University.He was born in New York City...

    , introduction to Frederic William Maitland: Historian (1960);
  • G. R. Elton, F.W. Maitland (1985).
  • C. H. S. Fifoot, Frederic William Maitland: A Life (1971) (only full length biography in print. Written by an academic lawyer in the field, but covering both the personal and professional life of its subject);
  • James R. Cameron
    James R. Cameron
    -Early life and education:An Ohio native, Cameron began his undergraduate education at the Ohio State University. He transferred to the Eastern Nazarene College and received his bachelor's degree in history...

    , Frederic William Maitland and the History of English Law, University of Oklahoma Press (1961), Greenwood Press (1977), Lawbook Exchange (2001).

External links

A number of Maitland's works have been reproduced on the
McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought

A painting of Maitland (1906) by Beatrice Locke is available from the National Portrait Gallery
  • Quia Emptores
    Quia Emptores
    Quia Emptores of 1290 was a statute passed by Edward I of England that prevented tenants from alienating their lands to others by subinfeudation, instead requiring all tenants wishing to alienate their land to do so by substitution...

  • Henry de Bracton
    Henry de Bracton
    Henry of Bracton, also Henry de Bracton, also Henrici Bracton, or Henry Bratton also Henry Bretton was an English jurist....

  • Cestui que
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