This is a guest post by Hazel Ceron, external relations intern with the Law Library of Congress.
On October 26th, the Law Library of Congress, in collaboration with the Friends of the Law Library of Congress, the Embassy of Tunisia, and the Library’s African and Middle Eastern Division (AMED), hosted a book talk on The Santillana Codes: The Civil Codes of Tunisia, Morocco, and Mauritania, authored by attorney Dan E. Stigall. The program brought together distinguished scholars and invitees to celebrate Maghrebian and Sahelian legal culture.
President of the Friends of the Law Library, Emily Rae, opened the program by reflecting on the correlations between the Library, invitees, and the author: passion for knowledge, law, and the study of Africa and Middle East. The program was held in the North East Pavilion, the site of the Law Library’s former location. His Excellency, Fayçal Gouia, the Ambassador of Tunisia to the United States, focused his remarks on a variety of historical landmarks in Tunisian history, one of the three countries highlighted in the Codes.
Author and attorney Dan E. Stigall presented his research findings and the methods he used to compile his new book, The Santillana Codes: The Civil Codes of Tunisia, Morocco, and Mauritania. Mr. Stigall’s remarks reflected Tunisian historical progress by describing the creation of the Tunisian Code of Obligations and Contracts, still being used today, and the Tunisian jurist and intellectual father of the civil code of Tunisia, David Santillana. His book examines David Santillana’s initiatives when forming the Tunisian Code and why civil codes are worthy of study in this modern age.
Mr. Stigall made the argument that civil codes are worthy of study because they remain constant during constitutional and institutional shifts. He provided the example of Tunisia’s Code of Obligations and Contracts’ durability and influence globally. He referred to Tunisia as an “intellectual laboratory for harmonizing legal systems” due to the Tunisian Code’s influence on the Moroccan Code and the Mauritian Code. Furthermore, Mr. Stigall explained that the three civil codes together showcase the following: the African, Islamic, and Jewish contributions to the development of global civil law; the first successful synthesis of Islamic and continental law; and similarities between Islamic law and the western legal system.
He emphasized that to understand what makes civil codes generally long-lasting, one must examine and distill the civil code’s creators and histories. According to his research findings, David Santillana, although a dual law expert in civil and Islamic law, consulted Zaytuna Mosque scholars, led by Mohamed Bayram, for a draft revision of the Tunisian Code. Mr. Stigall explained his enthusiasm on being able to work with David Santillana’s first draft to distinguish Mohamed Bayram’s contributions. He believed such an examination can be relevant to current scholars and policymakers.
In conclusion, Dan Stigall gave thanks to the Department of Justice and the Law Library of Congress, especially our very own, Emily Carr, for being a vital part of his research. He ended his remarks by expressing that works like the Santillana Codes “could not be possible without institutions that maintain and preserve legal knowledge” like the Law Library. “The works of great jurists depend on institutes like this,” he said. A selection of the Law Library’s rare books were displayed at the event to highlight the source materials used as inspiration for the Codes.