University of Pennsylvania
Ariel and Joshua Weiner Family Fellowship

Research Topic

Law of Conquest: A Medieval Prehistory of Colonial Law


Ada Kuskowski is assistant professor in the department of History at the University of Pennsylvania. A medieval historian and a legal historian, Kuskowski weaves together approaches from history, law, and literature with the larger goal of understanding how legal cultures developed in Europe during the Middle Ages. Her writing has focused on sources that might be described as “black letter law” and are often prone to positivist approaches. However, she interprets these materials as legal narratives that are embedded in larger cultural contexts and examine them through the values, representations, expectations, and mentalités that produced them and gave them meaning.

Kuskowski received her PhD in History from Cornell University. She teaches at the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned the Richard S. Dunn Award for Distinguished Teaching, and has also taught at Southern Methodist University and at McGill University.

Selected publications

  • “Translating Justinian: Language, Translation and Repurposing Roman Law in the Middle Ages” in Law and Language in the Middle Ages, ed. Matthew W. McHaffie, Jenny Bentham, and Helle Vogt (Brill, 2018)
  • Lingua  Franca  Legalis?  A  French  Vernacular  Legal  Culture  from  England  to  the  Levant,” Reading Medieval Studies 40 (2014)



Focusing on the broad contexts in which Jewish (and Israelite) law was developed by and for Jews, and in which it operated, treating law as a necessary component for understanding the broader dynamics of culture, history, governance, and economics of each place and period.