to commentonthe problemwas Frederic William Maitland.In lectureson English constitutionalhistory prepared in 1887 and 1888he wrote:Now werean examinertoask whointroducedthe feudal systemintoEngland?one very good answer,ifproperlyexplained, wouldbeHenry Spelman,andifthere fo-llowed the question,what was the feudal system?a goodanswer tothatwould be, an early essay incomparative jurisprudence....Ifmy examinerwentonwithhisquestionsand askedme,whendid the feudalsystemattain itsmostperfect development?Ishiould answer,about the middle of thelastcentury.2Thanks toJ.G.A.Pocock,itisnowknownthatHenrySpelman,a learnedEnglish antiquarianof the seventeenthcentury,used neither the term"feudalsystem"northeword "feudalism,"butthisdoes notdetract fromthe validityorthe importanceof Maitland'sobservations. Followingin thestepsoftheScottishlegalscholarSirThomasCraig, Spelman
held thatthesocialandpoliticalrelationshipsof medievalEnglandhad been uniformandsystematic enoughtobedescribedadequatelyasregulatedbya"'feudallaw'[which]was anhierarchicalsystemimposedfromabove asamatterofstatepolicy."The workofCraigandSpelmanhad itsvirtues,fortheywerethe first Britishhistorians toattempttorelateBritishinstitutionstocon-tinental developments.Both, however,reliedfortheirknowledgeofconti-nental institutions on Cujas'sandHotman's sixteenth-centuryeditions of thetwelfth-centuryLombardLibriFeudorum,whichgave,toparaphrasePocock,apreciseanddetailed "definition of thefeudumwherebyitcouldbe recognizedinany partofEurope," or, as he says, "a systematicexpositionofthe principles of tenure,forfeitureandinheritance."These criteria CraigandSpelman employed toclassifytheevidence from Scottishand English
sources, and theirsimplificationand regimentationofphenomenanotablyoffset the advantages to historicalthought of their demonstrationthat thedevelopmentofEnglandand Scotland could be understood
only in thecontext of theEuropean
Given thesebeginnings,itisnowonder that eighteenth-centuryBritishwritersbegantoacceptthe concept of a uniform feudal
government andtoconcentrate on the system,the construct, instead ofinvestigating thevarioussocialandpoliticalrelationships found in medievalEurope. "Theywere,"Pocockobserves,"making an'ism' of [feudalism]; theywere reflectingonits essence andnatureand endeavoring to fit it into apattern of generalideas."4 In so doing theyresembled Boulainvilliers andMontesquieu, who
2FredericWilliamMaitland,TheConstitutionalHistory ofEngland,ed.H. A. L.Fisher(Cambridge,19o8),
J.G.A.Pocock,TheAncient Constitutionand the Feudal Law:EnglishHistoricalThought
in theSeventeenthCentury(Cambridge,1957), 70 n.2,93-94,249,79-80,97-99,70-79,
Pocockperhaps exaggeratestheseadvantages (p.
because ofthe strength ofhisadmiration fortheboldness andimagination withwhichCraig and Spelmanchallenged thedistortedly insularapproachtakenbyCokeand the commonlawyers.Itseemsclear,furthermore,thatPocock himselfdoes notquestion the validityor theusefulness of theterm"feudalism."
Ibid., 249; seealsoRobertBoutruche,Seigneurieetfe'odalite:Le premierdgedes liens
d'homme ahomme(Paris,1959), 15nn.16-17,16n.20.