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Professor Milsom is recognised as perhaps the most important writer on the early development of English law since Maitland.
His Historical Foundations of the Common Law provides a highly stimulating and original synthesis of the formation of the main features of the English legal system, while his The Legal Framework of English Feudalism sees the obligations and concepts of an uncentralized feudal society being absorbed by a central jurisdiction and reduced to the technicalities of real property law.
Studies in the History of the Common Law makes readily available some of his other writings over the last thirty years. They fall into four groups. The largest is a series of detailed studies of the personal actions. These began from the topic most discussed by the few legal historians of the author's student days, namely the origins of'trespass' and 'case'; and their common thrust was to question the accepted interpretation of development in terms of a mechanistic interplay between 'forms of action', and instead to see lawyers thinking about questions.
Legal development as a phenomenon in its own right is the concern of the second group - studies of the part played by reason, of the interplay between law and fact, of history repeating itself in the field of contract, of the nature of Blackstone's achievement, and of judge-made law.
There are two dissimilar papers on the early land law: a discussion offemale inheritance and the widower's curtesy is a small sequel to The Legal Framework of English Feudalism, seeing oddities in the developed land law as relics of a different social structure; and an early paper on formedon records, with some technical comment, a plea roll find made while working on the personal actions.
Lastly come papers on two great historians of medieval English law, and the juxtaposition of papers on Plucknett, who came to the subject as a historian with no legal background, and on Maitland, who came to it from the law, may prompt reflection on the lasting predicament of this field of study.