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The Early Years of the Riccobono Seminar in America

This journal was founded partly for the purpose of promoting the study of Roman law in America, and over its sixteen years has published several pieces on significant persons and events with an American connection. A regular subject is the Riccobono Seminar, a series of lectures and debates on Roman law that took place in Washington DC from 1930 to 1956. Our very first volume (2002) included Salvo Randazzo’s Roman Legal Tradition and American Law: The Riccobono Seminar of Roman Law in Washington. There Prof. Randazzo reminded us that, during some of the most fraught decades of the twentieth century, international scholars gathered to promote their common (and diverse) legal heritage in Roman law. Prof Randazzo’s focus was the life of the Seminar from late 1934, but now Prof Timothy Kearley of the University of Wyoming has written in detail about the Seminar’s earlier, underreported meetings.

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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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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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