The Society was founded in 1887 by FW Maitland. The main activity of the Society is publishing historical records of English law. Since the society's inception, a volume of interesting and important texts has been published every year. The society also publishes a supplementary series.
The President is the Lord Chief Justice Igor Judge, PC, QC. The current literary director of the Society is Dr Neil Jones, who succeeded Professor Sir John Baker, Downing Professor of the Laws of England at Cambridge University in 2011. The Secretary remains Victor Tunkel. The Society meets for an AGM every year, but other meetings are held in the United States and Australia. The Society often collaborates with the Ames Foundation at Harvard Law School.
The membership of the society is primarily composed of educational institutions and interested individuals (mostly legal historians and lawyers).
The David Yale Prize is awarded biennially to a young scholar (under the age of 35) for a distinguished contribution to the laws and legal institutions of England and Wales. The award was set up in 1999 in honour of David Yale FBA Hon Q.C., former President of the Selden Society. The prize has been awarded to:
- 1999 Thomas P. Gallanis for his article 'The Rise of Modern Evidence Law'
- 2001 Daniel Klerman for his article 'Settlement and the Decline of Private Prosecution in Thirteenth-Century England'
- 2003 Neil Jones for his article 'The Use Upon a Use in Equity Revisited'
- 2005 Not awarded
- 2007 Sara Elin Roberts for her monograph The Legal Triads of Medieval Wales
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