‘I am always wishing that I knew Scotland. I believe that he who knew it would be able to speak some decisive words about English affairs’.

        F. W. Maitland to George Neilson, 9 May 1897.1

...

In a statement of which E. P. Thompson would surely have approved,2 Geoffrey Elton once wrote in a book review that ‘the law offers the surest way to an understanding of the social history of an age, at least before the French Revolution, a surer way than all the non-applicable refinements of modern sociology or social anthropology’.3 Elton was following F. W. Maitland, who, in a less acerbic and more inclusive way, asserted that ‘legal documents of the most technical kind, are the best, often the only evidence that we have for economic and social history’.4 In the 1970s and beyond, important work...

Article PDF first page preview

Article PDF first page preview
Article PDF first page preview
You do not currently have access to this article.