Front Page Titles (by Subject) NOTE P.: THE INDIAN VILLAGE COMMUNITY. - Ancient Law, its connection with the early history of society and its relation to modern ideas
Return to Title Page for Ancient Law, its connection with the early history of society and its relation to modern ideas
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
NOTE P.: THE INDIAN VILLAGE COMMUNITY. - Sir Henry Sumner Maine, Ancient Law, its connection with the early history of society and its relation to modern ideas 
Ancient Law, its connection with the early history of society and its relation to modern ideas, with an introduction and notes by Sir Frederick Pollock. 4th American from the 10th London edition (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1906).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
THE INDIAN VILLAGE COMMUNITY.
“It can hardly be doubted that the information available when Sir H. S. Maine wrote was very far from being what it has since become. None of the reports on the Panjāb frontier tribal-villages were written—or at least were available in print; and the greater part of the best Settlement Reports of the North-West Provinces, Oudh and the Panjāb, are dated in years subsequent to the publication of ‘Village Communities.’ Further, the Settlement Reports of the Central Provinces, the District Manuals of Southern India, and the Survey Reports and Gazetteers of the Bombay districts were many of them not written, and the others were hardly known beyond the confines of their presidencies. In this fact I find the explanation of the total omission in Sir H. S. Maine’s pages of any specific mention of the raiyatwārī form of village, and the little notice he takes of the tribal or clan constitution of Indian races in general, and of the frontier tribal villages in the Panjāb” (“The Indian Village Community,” p. 4).
It will be quite a mistake, however, as we may learn at large from Baden-Powell, to assume that the family tenure or property which is the unit of the raiyatwārī village system is equivalent to individual ownership or any kind of ownership as understood in modern Western law. What is certain is that there is no such thing as the village community of Hindu times, any more than there is any such thing as the village community of the Middle Ages in Europe. But there remains much profit to be derived from comparing the effects of more or less similar causes in fixing the customs of land tenure in the East and the West, whether those effects are, as they sometimes are, closely similar, or varied by the presence of other and different conditions. We no longer expect to find complete and parallel survivals of a common prehistoric stock of institutions, but it is not less interesting to find how easily parallel types may be developed at very distant times and places; and we are free to hold as a pious opinion that the Indian village council still known as the Five (pancháyat)—though that has long ceased to be the usual number in practice, and the institution belongs only to the “landlord” type of village—may go back to the same origin as our own reeve and four men, who flourish in Canada to this day. Robuster faith might be needed to find more than accident in the number of five hearths and five lawful men on Horace’s estate (“habitatum quinque focis et Quinque bonos solitum Variam dimittere patres,” Ep. i. 14). A system of dividing land so as to give every man a share of every quality, which resembles our medieval common-field system even in minute detail, is described by Baden-Powell (op. cit. pp. 191, 414).
With regard to the supposed corporate or quasi-corporate ownership of European and especially English village communities, Professor Maitland’s section thereon in “Domesday Book and Beyond,” pp. 340-56, gives a sound and much needed criticism of the loose language which was current among historical writers a generation ago.