A globetrotting Benedict Kingsbury goes from 16th Century Europe to modern-day Asia

Photo of Benedict KingsburyThis fall, Benedict Kingsbury, Murry and Ida Becker Professor of Law and director of NYU Law’s Institute for International Law and Justice (IILJ), traveled to Italy to pick up an unusual accolade: an honorary citizenship to the ancient Italian town of San Ginesio. Kingsbury was selected for this privilege because he is an expert on Alberico Gentili (1552-1608), the renowned scholar of Roman law and the laws of war who was born in San Ginesio. "It was in Oxford that I first encountered Gentili's works, and those works led me to his birthplace," Kingsbury says. Even though, as a Protestant, Gentili was forced to leave San Ginesio for Oxford in the 1570s, he remains a famous figure in the town. Notes Kingsbury: "Piazza Alberico Gentili is the square of this lovely ancient walled city. I know many of the locals, who loyally come along to hear our scholarly presentations on the most recondite Gentili topics! I feel very honored now to be a fellow citizen of his descendants and compatriots."

Kingsbury is the co-editor, with Benjamin Straumann, a historian who is Alberico Gentili Fellow at the IILJ, of two soon-to-be published books that were celebrated at a conference in San Ginesio. One is an English translation of Gentili's 1599 Latin work on The Wars of the Romans, dealing with the justice or injustice or the Roman empire's numerous wars of expansion. The other, The Roman Foundations of the Law of Nations, is a collection of essays on the impact of Roman law and Roman imperial practice on what became modern international law. Both will be published by Oxford University Press. Lloyd C. Nelson Professor of International Law Robert Howse also delivered a paper at the conference, along with other leading scholars.

Last month, Kingsbury headed to Asia. On November 12, he delivered the keynote speech to the meeting of the Japan Chapter of the Asian Society of International Law in Tokyo. He spoke on fundamental new legal issues in the work of international organizations, including their need for legally regulated emergency powers to respond quickly to calamities—worldwide outbreaks of infectious diseases, for example, or natural disasters. Kingsbury’s speech drew on the IILJ’s pathbreaking work on global administrative law. While in Tokyo, Kingsbury also spoke to what he described as “a lively and well-attended gathering” of the Washington Square Club, the Law School's alumni group in Japan.

Posted December 9, 2010