As more than one commentator has noted, and often from just beyond the area of direct study of the medieval English peasantry, the concentration of effort upon the study of the medieval peasantry has been directed in avenues that might loosely be described as social and economic. Furthermore, a great deal of the investigation of the medieval English peasantry has been based upon detailed analysis of one particular body of material: the records of the manorial court, the manorial court roll. These have been used in a wide variety of ways, to explore landholding, family structure, inter-tenant exchange, lord-tenant relations, and so on. It is striking, however, that relative to the bulk of work, especially that occasioned by the two most significant movements to have influenced the development of peasant studies for medieval England (Marxism; social science history), there has been relatively little work on the law contained within these courts.
Those historians attempting such an approach have more than once invoked the spirit of Maitland and identified their approach as a return to his important antecedents. Maitland, in his introduction to his Selden Society volume, Select Pleas in Manorial and Other Seigniorial Courts, spends a considerable extent of the introduction exploring the development of the manorial court and the relationship, chiefly in terms of jurisdictional boundaries, between the manor court and customary law on the one hand and the king's court and common law and statute on the other.