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Born Nov. 23, 1833, in Bradford; died Feb. 6, 1912, in Hitchin. British medieval historian.
A barrister by training, Seebohm for a time practiced law; thereafter, until the end of his life, he was a partner in a bank in the city of Hitchin. His political views were close to those of the Liberals, and his historical methodology, to that of the positivists. His best-known studies dealt with the agrarian history of medieval England.
Seebohm inclined toward a romanistic interpretation of the origins of feudalism, emphasizing continuity in the evolution of society from the late Roman Empire to the Middle Ages. As an adherent of the manorial theory, he regarded the manor, whose lands were cultivated by serfs, as the original form of landed property among the Anglo-Saxons and other Germanic peoples; he viewed the village commune, preserved within the manor, as a serf institution. He explained society’s subsequent evolution toward freedom and democracy solely as the result of the development of capitalism, which put an end to the ancient “communist” form of organization, based, in his opinion, on slavery; this argument, he believed, proved the impossibility of communism in the future.
Seebohm was the first British historian to provide a detailed description of the structure and economic life of the large manor based on corvee and of the relations between the manor and the commune. Disregarding the varied character of manorial structure and the development of commodity and money relations in the English countryside, he idealized the manor as an organization that allegedly created harmony between the lord and his serfs.
WORKSThe English Village Community. London, 1883.
The Tribal System in Wales. London-New York, 1895.
The Tribal Custom in Anglo-Saxon Law. London, 1902.
REFERENCEGutnova, E. V. Istoriografiia istorii srednikh vekov. Moscow, 1974. (See Index of Names.)
E. V. GUTNOVA