Who Propounded the Theory of Evolution of Law?


Vincent White

The theory of evolution is one of the most widely accepted scientific theories in the world. It explains how living organisms have changed over time through the process of natural selection. However, did you know that there is also a theory of evolution of law?

This theory describes how legal systems have evolved over time to meet the changing needs of society. So, who propounded this theory? Let’s find out.

The Evolution of Law

The theory of evolution of law was first proposed by Sir Henry Maine, a British jurist and legal historian. Maine was born in 1822 and became a professor of law at the University of London in 1846. He is best known for his work on ancient legal systems and his influential book “Ancient Law,” which was published in 1861.

Maine argued that legal systems have evolved over time from primitive societies to more complex ones. In primitive societies, he claimed that law was based on customs and traditions passed down from generation to generation. These customs were enforced by informal social sanctions such as shaming or ostracism.

As societies became more complex, Maine argued that these informal sanctions were no longer enough to maintain social order. Instead, formal legal codes were developed that were enforced by a centralized authority such as a king or emperor.

The Role of Religion

Maine also believed that religion played an important role in the evolution of law. In ancient societies, he claimed that religious beliefs often formed the basis for legal codes and customs. For example, in ancient Israel, the Ten Commandments provided a set of moral principles that formed the basis for Jewish law.

As societies became more secular, Maine argued that religion lost its central role in shaping legal systems. Instead, laws became based on secular principles such as individual rights and freedoms.

The Impact on Modern Legal Systems

Maine’s theory had a profound impact on modern legal systems. It helped legal scholars understand the historical roots of modern law and how it has evolved over time. It also provided a framework for understanding how legal systems can adapt to meet the changing needs of society.

Today, many legal scholars continue to study the evolution of law and its impact on modern society. They use Maine’s theory as a starting point for understanding the complex relationship between law and society.


In conclusion, Sir Henry Maine was the first to propose the theory of evolution of law. He argued that legal systems have evolved over time from primitive societies to more complex ones, and that religion played an important role in shaping early legal codes and customs. His work continues to influence legal scholars today, providing valuable insights into the historical development of modern law.