Maine, Henry Sumner (1822–1888)

Henry Sumner Maine, a Cambridge-educated Englishman, worked as a journalist in London, a colonial administrator in India, and a lecturer on jurisprudence at Oxford and Cambridge. Maine made his mark on the study of law during a most impressive period of legal historiography in Europe, one that featured such luminaries as Frederic Maitland (1850–1906), Otto von Gierke (1841–1921), and Friedrich Carl von Savigny (1779–1861). During an era of nascent nationalism, these great scholars trained their attention on explaining the historical development of various branches of Western law.

Maine's signal contribution to this vast historiographic project was Ancient Law (1861), a work that successfully grafted anthropology onto the study of comparative law. Students know Maine's masterwork best for its signature phrase, “from status to contract,” a clear ...

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