Sir Paul Gavrilovitch Vinogradoff

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Sir Paul Gavrilovitch Vinogradoff

The Russian educator and historian Sir Paul Gavrilovitch Vinogradoff (1854-1925) wrote and edited many works on legal history.

Paul Vinogradoff was born on Dec. 1, 1854, in Kostroma, where his father was director of a secondary school. Paul entered the University of Moscow at the age of 16. After taking his degree, he continued his studies in Berlin, where he attended the seminars of Theodor Mommsen and Heinrich Brunner.

Vinogradoff began his teaching career on his return to Moscow and was invited to lecture on medieval history at the university in 1877. In 1883 he made his first trip to England to collect materials for a doctor's thesis on English agrarian history. Vinogradoff was described at the time as "tall and massive." His intellect "gave the impression of a sledgehammer." Truly cosmopolitan, he eventually became fluent in 12 languages.

Vinogradoff's trip to England was notable for the work he completed and for the friendships he made. In the British Museum he rediscovered the "Notebooks" of the 13th-century English legal writer Henry of Bracton. This text was later edited by a young English lawyer, Frederick William Maitland, whom he had met at Cambridge. Maitland became the greatest English legal historian of the 19th and 20th centuries.

The thesis Vinogradoff produced on this trip, Villainage in England, published first in Russian and in 1892 in English translation, established his European reputation. It is considered his most important work. He argued that the organization of the English village community was much older than the manorial system. He was among the first to emphasize the importance of the open fields and other aspects of village agricultural organization to an understanding of the political and legal institutions of the medieval countryside.

Vinogradoff had been a liberal since his student days. On his return to Moscow and his appointment to a professorship at the university, he became active in educational reform. He was elected to the Moscow Municipal Council and became chairman of its education committee. He utilized this post to promote the extension of public primary schools and to create numerous societies for the furtherance of public education. In protest against government restrictions on the freedom of the university, he resigned his professorship in 1901. With his Norwegian wife, whom he had married in 1897, and his two children, he left for England, where he remained as professor of jurisprudence at Oxford until his death on Dec. 19, 1925. To Oxford he introduced the German seminar method of teaching.

Among Vinogradoff's later works were The Growth of the Manor (1905) and Roman Law in Medieval Europe (1909). His Outlines of Historical Jurisprudence (1920-1922) was left uncompleted at his death.

Further Reading

A memoir on Vinogradoff by Herbert A. L. Fisher is in The Collected Papers of Paul Vinogradoff (2 vols., 1928). William S. Holdsworth, The Historians of Anglo-American Law (1928), includes an essay on Vinogradoff, and James Westfall Thompson, A History of Historical Writing (2 vols., 1942), has a biographical and critical section on him. A chapter devoted to Vinogradoff's life and work is in F. M. Powicke, Modern Historians and the Study of History: Essays and Papers (1955). □