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Domesday Book, like Magna Carta, is one of the great documents of English history which everybody has heard of and few understand. Domesday Book and Beyond is still, by the common consent of scholars, the most brilliant and stimulating introduction to the subject. "We have here," wrote Maitland, "an absolutely unique account of feudalism in two different stages of its growth, the more trustworthy, though the more puzzling, because it gives us particulars and not generalities."
Maitland's own interest in Domesday is primarily in the development of English Law. But the book contains a fascinating analysis of the structure of English society in the 11th century. The wit and clarity of the writing make easy reading.
F. W. Maitland (1850-J906) was, in the opinion of Lord Acton, the ablest historian of his time. As an undergraduate at Cambridge he took high honours in Moral Science and subsequently became a barrister. Jn J884 he returned to Cambridge as a Reader in English Law and in J888 became Downing Professor of the Laws of England. Jn J902 he was offered but refused the Regius Professorship of Modern History.
Maitland's wide circle of friends included Leslie Stephen, whose biography he wrote, and H. A. L. Fisher, whose sister he married. The large-mindedness, the humour and the charm of his character are reflected in his style.