Berman, Harold J. 1918-2007 (Harold Berman, Harold Joseph Berman)

views updated

Berman, Harold J. 1918-2007 (Harold Berman, Harold Joseph Berman)


See index for CA sketch: Born February 13, 1918, in Hartford, CT; died November 13, 2007, in Brooklyn, NY. Legal scholar, historian, educator, lawyer, and author. Berman was an expert on the Western legal tradition, but he was also such an eminent scholar of Russian and Soviet law that he argued a court case in Moscow in 1958 on behalf of the estate of author Arthur Conan Doyle. He won the case at the municipal level, but it was later denied on appeal. Upon the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1989, Berman served as an expert consultant to officials working on legal reforms for the new Russian state. Berman was born and raised in the United States, however, and taught law for nearly forty years at Harvard University, where he also served on the executive committee of the highly respected Russian Research Center. He had taught himself to speak Russian and acquired his expertise largely through independent study and frequent travel to the U.S.S.R. at a time when few Americans were able to do so. As an educator, first at Harvard, then at Emory University, where he moved in 1985, Berman specialized in comparative legal history and international law. He established the World Law Institute at Emory, then expanded it to include programs in Hungary in 2000 and Russia in 2001. Berman was also interested in the impact of religious beliefs on the rule of law throughout history, and he was instrumental in the creation of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University. All of his scholarly interests were reflected in his writings, which included more than twenty books and hundreds of articles. Berman's books include Justice in Russia: An Interpretation of Soviet Law (1950), Faith and Order: The Reconciliation of Law and Religion (1993), Law and Revolution: The Formation of the Western Legal Tradition (1983), and Law and Revolution, II: The Impact of the Protestant Reformations on the Western Legal Tradition. At the time of his death he was reportedly working on an additional volume on war and revolution, addressing the influence of more modern revolutions (American, French, and Russian) on the Western legal tradition.



Hunter, Howard O., editor, The Integrative Jurisprudence of Harold J. Berman, Westview Press (Boulder, CO), 1996.

Witte, John Jr., and Frank S. Alexander, editors, The Weightier Matters of Law: Essays on Law and Religion; A Tribute to Harold J. Berman, Scholars Press (Atlanta, GA), 1988.


New York Times, November 18, 2007, p. A29.

Times (London, England), November 26, 2007, p. 57.