HISTORY, LAW AND FREEDOM: F. W. MAITLAND IN CONTEXT

30 Nov 2017

This article considers the intellectual development of the historian and jurist F. W. Maitland (1850–1906). Its focus is the development of his ideas about the importance of intermediate groups between the individual and the state. Maitland expounded these ideas in a dazzling series of late essays which became the wellspring of the tradition known as “political pluralism.” Yet, as this article shows, the same ideas also played a crucial role in Maitland's great works of legal and historical scholarship, including The History of English Law. If this is appreciated, then the liberal, Germanist and constitutionalist basis of Maitland's thought becomes clear. So too does Maitland's position as a “new” liberal thinker, committed to freedom and constitutionalism, but critical of individualism and parliamentary sovereignty. In short, it is only if Maitland's political essays are read alongside his works of history and law that either can really be understood.