See T. F. Plucknett, Early English Legal Literature (1958).
He was born at Stratford in Suffolk, but the year of his birth is unknown. There is little information about his early life. He is first heard of as sheriff of Yorkshire from 1163 to 1170. In 1173 he became sheriff of Lancashire and custodian of the honour of Richmond. In 1174 he was one of the English leaders at the Battle of Alnwick, and it was to him that the king of Scotland, William the Lion, surrendered. In 1175 he was reappointed sheriff of Yorkshire, in 1176 he became justice of the king's court and a justice itinerant in the northern circuit, and in 1180 Chief Justiciar of England. It was with his assistance that Henry II completed his famous judicial reforms, though many had been carried out before he came into office. He became the king's right-hand man, and during Henry's frequent absences was in effect regent of England.
After the death of Henry in 1189, Glanvill was removed from his office by Richard I on September 17, 1189, and imprisoned until he had paid a ransom, according to one authority, of £15,000. Shortly after obtaining his freedom he took the cross, and he died at the siege of Acre in 1190. Perhaps at the instigation of Henry II, Glanvill wrote or oversaw the writing of the Tractatus de legibus et consuetudinibus regni Angliae, a practical treatise on the forms of procedure in the king's court. As the source of our knowledge regarding the earliest form of the curia regis, and for the information it affords regarding ancient customs and laws, it is of great value to the student of English history. It is now generally agreed that the work of Glanvill is of earlier date than the Scottish law book known from its first words as Regiam Majestatem, which bears a close resemblance to his.
The treatise of Glanvill was first printed in 1554. An English translation, with notes and introduction by John Beames, was published at London in 1812. A French version is found in various manuscripts, but has not yet been printed. The treatise was then edited and translated by G.D.G. Hall for the Oxford University Press 1965. For the most up-to-date research on the topic, see the recent Oxford D.Phil thesis by Dr. Sarah Tullis.