Professor Emeritus Harold J. Berman, an expert on comparative, international, and Soviet law as well as legal history and philosophy and the intersection of law and religion, died November 13. He was 89.
Berman recently celebrated his 60th anniversary as a law professor. In 1948 he joined the faculty of Harvard Law School, where he built a reputation as one of the world's best-known scholars of Soviet law, and held the Story Professorship of Law and later the Ames Professorship of Law. He was a frequent visitor to Russia as a guest scholar and lecturer, even during the height of the McCarthy-era.
He left HLS in 1985 for Emory Law School, where he was the first person to hold the Robert W. Woodruff Professorship of Law—the highest honor Emory can bestow upon a faculty member. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, Berman consulted leading Russian officials on proposed legislation and led seminars for political leaders and academics on the development of legal institutions.
In recent years, Berman worked to redress global societal inequalities and to establish systems of trust, peace, and justice in developing countries. He co-founded and co-chaired the World Law Institute, an organization that sponsors educational programs in global law. The Institute opened the first Academy of World Law at the Central European University in Budapest in 2000 and a comparable program in Moscow in 2001.
Berman was also one of the pioneers of the study of law and religion, writing extensively on the subject and playing an integral role in the development of Emory’s Law and Religion Program, now the Center for the Study of Law and Religion.
A prolific scholar, Berman wrote 25 books and more than 400 scholarly articles, including “Law and Revolution: The Formation of the Western Legal Tradition” and the “The Nature and Functions of Law,” which is in its 6th edition.
Born in 1918 in Hartford, Connecticut, Berman received a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College in 1938 and a master’s degree and J.D. from Yale University in 1942 and 1947, respectively. He served as a cryptographer in the U.S. Army in the European Theatre of Operations from 1942 to 1945 and received the Bronze Star Medal for his service.