He became professor of history at the University of Moscow, but his zeal for the spread of education brought him into conflict with the authorities, and consequently he was obliged to leave Russia. Having settled in England, Vinogradoff brought a powerful and original mind to bear upon the social and economic conditions of early England, a subject which he had already begun to study in Moscow.
His Villainage in England (1892) is perhaps the most important book written on the peasantry of the feudal age and the village community in England; it can only be compared for value with FW Maitland's Domesday Book and Beyond. In masterly fashion Vinogradoff here shows that the villein of Norman times was the direct descendant of the Anglo-Saxon freeman, and that the typical Anglo-Saxon settlement was a free community, not a manor, the position of the freeman having steadily deteriorated in the centuries just around the Norman Conquest. The status of the villein and the conditions of the manor in the 12th and 13th centuries are set forth with a legal precision and a wealth of detail which shows its author, not only as a very capable historian, but also as a brilliant and learned jurist.
Almost equally valuable was Vinogradoff's essay on “Folkland” in vol. viii. of the English Historical Review (1893), which proved for the first time the real nature of this kind of land. Vinogradoff followed up his Villainage in England with The Growth of the Manor (1905) and English Society in the Eleventh Century (1908), works on the lines of his earlier book.
In 1903 he was appointed Corpus professor of jurisprudence in the university of Oxford, and subsequently became a fellow of the British Academy. He received honorary degrees from the principal universities, was made a member of several foreign academies and was appointed honorary professor of history at Moscow.