Frederic William Maitland

British historian

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

Those who took the road to democracy to be the road to freedom mistook temporary means for an ultimate end.

Quotes edit

  • Those who took the road to democracy to be the road to freedom mistook temporary means for an ultimate end.
    • ‘A Historical Sketch of Liberty and Equality as Ideals of English Political Philosophy from the Time of Hobbes to the Time of Coleridge’ (1875), in H. A. L. Fisher (ed.), The Collected Papers of Frederic William Maitland, Downing Professor of the Laws of England: Volume I (1911), p. 84
  • All Europe over, lawyers were being at once attracted and puzzled by the Roman doctrine of possession. ... Roman law compels us to hold that there are some occupiers who are not possessors. In an evil hour the English judges, who were controlling a new possessory action, which had been suggested by foreign models, adopted this theory at the expense of the termor. ... English law for six centuries and more will rue this youthful flirtation with Romanism.
    • The History of English Law Before the Time of Edward I: Volume II (1898), pp. 114–15
  • It was a court of politicians enforcing a policy, not a court of judges administering the law.
    • On the Star Chamber, The Constitutional History of England: A Course of Lectures (1909), p. 263

Quotes about Maitland edit

  • While others lingered among the tombs, he drew his knowledge of our law, not from the sepulchres of its sages, but straight from the source itself. For him no fetish blocked the way; for him no vain repetition of statements from the legal Talmud would make those statements true. If “Co. Litt.” was wrong, it was not blasphemy to say so; to treat its “sentence” as a judgment from which there was no appeal was worthy of the Middle Ages. I do not know, nor do I suppose that the famous Downing Professor ever said so much, but one can imagine, had he spoken out, how his witty raillery might have shocked the veterans of Bench and Bar. For in his ever vivid originality, in the daring brilliance of his style, Maitland was the Whistler of the Law.
    • J. Horace Round, Peerage and Pedigree: Studies in Peerage Law and Family History, Volume I (1910), pp. 146–47
  • We may safely say that Maitland will remain a force and an inspiration when some, even of those who occupied the woolsack, are mere names. If all his theories could be overthrown, all his positive results peptonized into textbooks, he would still live as a model of critical method, a model of style, and a model of intellectual temper. He shall not be shamed, whatever records leap to light. A century hence his name will stand higher still than it does to-day.
    • Arthur Smith, Frederic William Maitland: Two Lectures and a Bibliography (1908), p. 57
  • It was Maitland's good fortune to be only moderately successful academically as a young man, so he escaped the easy assurance of the eminently successful man looking at the world. He had to learn about documents the hard way, in a conveyancer's office. This taught him to keep close to the ground. He learned that the approach to history must be through drudgery, and that no amount of elegance, economy, and precision of mind can take the place of an enormous capacity for hard work. He had no successors. Yet in a sense all modern historical researchers are his successors. Maitland's virtues are the virtues we should all like to possess; his way of doing things is the way of all modern research.
    • R. W. Southern, review of The Letters of Frederic William Maitland in History and Theory, Vol. 6, No. 1 (1967), p. 110

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