THE STATUTE OF WALES, 1284 'THIS law deserves most particular notice though hitherto unobserved upon either by any lawyer or historian.' These words were written as long ago as 1766 by Daines Barrington in his work Observations upon the Statutes.1 Over two centuries later Barrington's comment holds good, for the statute of Wales has still not received the attention it so richly deserves. Lawyers, it is true, have made fine gestures in acknowledgement of the importance of the statute. To Reeves it was 'a sort of constitution for the principality which was thereby in great measure put on the foot of England', while Maitland's verdict was that it represented 'the most comprehensive code that any English legislator issues during the middle ages'. In more recent times opinion upon the statute has focussed upon its role as a restatement of English law, though Holdsworth also regarded it as 'in a sense the most modern of Edward's statutes'.2 But despite the fact that the consensus of legal opinion has underlined the great importance of the statute of Wales, it remains true that it has been more remarked upon than studied. Plucknett, for instance, though he paid tribute to the statute's enormous practical interest to his- torians in his Concise History of English Law, did not include it in the table of statutes and documents with which he prefaced his Legislation of Edward I and did not refer to it in the body of his text.3 In contrast with the coy restraint of lawyers, historians have foisted their attentions upon the statute which, to them, was an expression of conquest. It has been described as 'a drastic and revolutionary document concerned with a conquered land'; the product of an 'imperial mission in the field of law'; and as the work of a king who sat in authoritarian 'judgement upon the laws of other people'. The substance of the statute has, in consequence, fallen between the respective spheres of the lawyer and the historian. It is true that its administrative provisions have been clearly detailed by Mr. Waters in his Edwardian Settlement of North Wales in its 1 D. Barrington, Observations upon the Statutes chiefly the more Ancient from Magna Carta to the Twenty-first of James the First, Ch. XXVII (2nd edition, 1766), p. 90. 1 J. Reeves, History of the English Law (2nd edition, 1787), II, 93-94; F. Pollock and F. W. Maitland, The History of English Law (2nd edition, 1968), I, 220-21; W. Holdsworth, Some Makers of English Law (Cambridge, 1938), pp. 28-29. » T. F. T. Plucknett, Legislation of Edward I (Oxford, 1949), p. x. The 'Statute of Rhuddlan' which is mentioned there and on p. 153 n. 2 relates to an Exchequer ordinance (Statutes of the Realm, 1, 69-70). For a discussion of the terms 'Statute of Wales' and 'Statute of Rhuddlan', see below, p. 134. See also idem, A Concise History of the Common Law (5th edition, London, 1956), p. 27. 4 F. M. Powicke, The Thirteenth Century, 1216-1307 (Oxford, 1953), p. 322; R. R. Davies, 'Colonial Wales', Past and Present, LXV (1974), 18.