Distinguished legal scholar and historian John Fabian Witt will visit Hobart and William Smith on Thursday and Friday, Feb. 9 and 10, when he will engage with philosophy students, deliver a public lecture and lead a faculty seminar.
An expert in the history of American law, the laws of war and the law of torts, Witt is the Allen H. Duffy Class of 1960 Professor of Law at Yale University, with a dual appointment in Yale’s history department. He is the author of, among other books, Lincoln’s Code: The Laws of War in American History, which won the 2013 Bancroft Prize in history of the Americas and was a finalist for Pulitzer Prize.
Based partly on that highly acclaimed book, Witt’s talk, “The Puzzling Laws of War: From Lincoln to Afghanistan,” will begin at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 9, in the Geneva Room of the Warren Hunting Smith Library. The lecture will examine how the modern laws of armed conflict apply in war zones around the world, tracing their history from the American Civil War through the post-9/11 conflict in Afghanistan.
Earlier that afternoon, Witt will join Professor Steven Lee’s “Philosophy of Law” class as a guest instructor.
On Friday morning, he will hold a seminar for faculty in the Blackwell Room in Demarest Hall. In his talk, “The Radical Roots of Brown v. Board: A Blueprint for Modern Constitutional Change,” Witt will consider the case’s radical beginnings and why subsequent constitutional transformations have sought to replicate the blueprint of Brown’s reasoning.
In addition to Lincoln’s Code, Witt’s writings include Patriots and Cosmopolitans: Hidden Histories of American Law and the prizewinning The Accidental Republic: Crippled Workingmen, Destitute Widows, and the Remaking of American Law. He recently published a book on the law of torts, Torts: Cases, Principles, and Institutions, and is currently editing a book on constitutional orders in emergencies, as well as writing a history of the Garland Fund, the 1920s philanthropic foundation whose work financed the efforts that culminated in Brown v. Board of Education. Witt is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a member of the Society of American Historians and the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship for his project on the laws of war in American history.
His visit to campus is sponsored by Phi Beta Kappa and the Colleges’ Philosophy Department.