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Refugee Scholar

Logo ThreeEighty years ago Salvatore Riccobono founded a congress at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, dedicated to Roman law. It ran for two decades and was chronicled in the Bullettino dell’Istituto di Diritto Romano and in publications of the CUA. The "Riccobono Seminar" was a remarkable event in the American academic scene, and for short time gave hope that Roman law might get real purchase in American law schools. Riccobono himself promoted the view that Roman law underlay the western legal tradition, and to that end invited scholars to address the seminar. Papers often departed from the general theme, but one class of participants had a special incentive to stay on point: refugee scholars. Among these was Fritz Schulz (1879–1957).

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The Expressive Function of Roman Law

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Those who study Roman law don't “collaborate” with other disciplines: they live in them. Romanists who aren't part philologist and social historian don't exist, and without some acquaintance with philosophy and the history of ideas they're just left behind. So they don't talk about "interdisciplinarity." Like the old joke: "What's water?" said the fish. The corollary is that Roman law is the perfect mirror for all manner of studies, and that includes relatively new ones, like the expressive function of law.

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S. P. Scott, translator of "The Civil Law"

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Students who come to learn Roman law invariably have a Bluebeard Moment with their teachers: "Don't open that door," the door being the covers of S. P. Scott's The Civil Law. Scott was an independent scholar from Ohio, and 100 years ago began translating all of Justinian's compilation, together with a handful of earlier sources. It appeared in 1932, published in 17 volumes, and remains in print. No one denies the feat — and no one praises the translation.  It’s a fair judgment, but perhaps Scott’s reputation should rest on more.

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