Maine, Sir Henry James Sumner

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Maine, Sir Henry James Sumner

Sir Henry James Sumner Maine, 1822–88, English jurist and historian, educated at Cambridge. A pioneer in the historical and comparative study of institutions, he viewed the history of laws as the most certain way of studying the history of civilization. He drew analogies between 19th-century institutions in India and those of Anglo-Saxon society and believed that society progressed from custom to law, with Roman law demonstrating the intermediate stage between ancient usage and modern British law. Parts of his theories have been discredited, but his influence on the study of the history of jurisprudence is incalculable. His first work, Ancient Law (1861; new ed., with introd. by C. K. Allen, 1931, repr. 1970), was his most famous. He was (1862–69) legal member of the viceroy's council in India, where he planned the codification of Indian law. He embodied his lectures on legal history, given at Oxford and Cambridge, in several books, including Village Communities in the East and the West (1871) and The Early History of Institutions (7th ed. 1966). In Popular Government (1885) he challenged the thought of his day by warning that democracy and progress were not necessarily equated.

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