Thursday, January 20, 2011

John Fabian Witt ’99 to Discuss Puzzling History of the Laws of War in Duffy Inaugural Lecture

John Fabian Witt ’99 will present his inaugural lecture as the Allen H. Duffy Class of 1960 Professor of Law on Monday, February 28, 2011, at 4:30 p.m. in Room 127. It is free and open to the public and will be followed by a reception in the Alumni Reading Room. Professor Witt’s lecture is titled “Lincoln’s Code: The Puzzling History of the Laws of War.”

“One hundred and fifty years ago next year, in the second year of the American Civil War,” said Witt, “Abraham Lincoln commissioned an eccentric Prussian immigrant named Francis Lieber to draft a distillation of the international laws of war for the instruction of the armies of the United States. Today, historians and lawyers view Lieber’s code as the foundation of modern humanitarian law, yet neither have been able to make sense of the document’s many puzzling features. To piece together the puzzling history of the laws of war is to revisit the United States’ engagement with the central conceptual dilemmas of the laws of war and to connect humanitarian law in wartime with the nineteenth century’s other great moral leap: emancipation and the end of slavery.”

An expert in American legal history, John Fabian Witt joined Yale Law School in 2009 and was named the Allen H. Duffy Class of 1960 Professor of Law in March 2010. He is also a Professor of History at Yale. He previously taught at Columbia Law School for eight years and was a visiting professor at Harvard Law School in the spring of 2005.

He has written extensively about the history of American law and torts. His books include Patriots and Cosmopolitans: Hidden Histories of American Law; The Accidental Republic: Crippled Workingmen, Destitute Widows, and the Remaking of American Law; and the forthcoming Lincoln’s Code: War and Humanity in America. He has been awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship for 2010-2011 for his project on the laws of war in American history.

Professor Witt earned three degrees from Yale: his B.A. in history summa cum laude in 1994, his J.D. in 1999, and his Ph.D. in history in 2000. He joined the Columbia law faculty in 2001, after clerking for Judge Pierre N. Leval of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

The Allen H. Duffy Class of 1960 Professorship of Law was created in 1990 through the generosity of David A. Jones ’60 and Betty Jones and members of the 1960 graduating class, on the occasion of their thirtieth reunion, to honor the memory of their deceased classmate, Allen H. Duffy ’60, a highly respected New Haven practitioner.