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Johns Hopkins UniversityArts and Sciences Magazine

Arts and Sciences Loses
Two Academic Giants

This summer, the School of Arts and Sciences lost two renowned scholars and beloved teachers to illness: Giovanni Arrighi, the George Armstrong Kelly Professor of Sociology, died June 18 at his home in Baltimore, and Raymond Westbrook, the W.W. Spence Professor of Semitic Languages, died July 23 in London.

Arrighi was an authority in the fields of world systems analysis and historical sociology. He came to Johns Hopkins in 1998 to anchor the Sociology Department’s comparative-historical group. At Hopkins, he served as director of the Institute for Global Studies in Culture, Power and History from 1999 to 2002, and as department chair from 2003 to 2006. He remained active in his research and in the classroom through the spring, when he taught a graduate seminar on international development with his wife, Beverly Silver, also a professor in sociology.

“The School of Arts and Sciences has been enriched immeasurably by Giovanni, as have those of us who knew him personally,” said Adam Falk, James B. Knapp Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences. “I am struck by the enormous impact Giovanni had on his field and on Johns Hopkins over the years, bringing bold new perspective to social theory and historical sociology broadly.”

Arrighi, born in Milan in 1937, wrote landmark works on the political economy of Africa that set the terms of the scholarly debates in the field for decades. His most famous work was a recently completed trilogy on the origins and transformations of global capitalism, beginning in 1994 with The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power and the Origins of Our Times. Published in at least 10 languages, the book reinterpreted the evolution of capitalism.

Arrighi and Silver had planned to attend a major international conference in his honor in late May in Madrid, but were unable to go when his condition deteriorated suddenly. The weeklong conference, “Dynamics of the Global Crisis, Anti-Systemic Movements and New Models of Hegemony,” featured several of the field’s top scholars in an exploration of the insights of Arrighi’s work. He was further honored at the American Sociological Association’s annual meeting in August with a session titled “From Rhodesia to Beijing: Reflections on the Scholarship of Giovanni Arrighi.”

Westbrook, considered the leading authority on ancient Near Eastern legal traditions, lost his battle with cancer just a month after Arrighi lost his. Raised in Southend-on-Sea, England, and educated at Oxford, Yale, and Hebrew University, Westbrook mastered five European languages and briefly practiced law and taught at the Inns of Court School of Law.

“Ray’s initial training in the law gave him privileged insight into ancient legal systems,” said Near Eastern Studies colleague Jerrold Cooper, the W.W. Spence Professor Emeritus of Semitic Languages. “He sought to bring legal historians and political scientists together with scholars of the ancient Near East to better comprehend ancient legal and diplomatic documents.”

To those ends, Westbrook organized three international conferences, the proceedings of which were published as Amarna Diplomacy: The Beginnings of International Relations, with Raymond Cohen, in 2000; Security for Debt in Ancient Near Eastern Law, with Richard Jasnow, in 2001; and Isaiah’s Vision of Peace in Biblical and Modern International Relations: Swords into Plowshares, also with Cohen, in 2008. He conceived and edited the monumental two-volume History of Ancient Near Eastern Law (2003), writing more than 200 of its 1,200 pages himself, and making significant contributions to many more.

At Hopkins since 1987, Westbrook taught courses in the Near Eastern Studies Department in Akkadian, Sumerian, and Hittite, as well as courses in Roman law for the Classics Department. His popular undergraduate courses, Law in the Ancient World and The Origins of Diplomacy, were part of the minor in ancient law that he originated and directed. In 2000, undergraduates honored him with the Johns Hopkins George E. Owen Teaching Award.





photo Giovanni Arrighi




photo Raymond Westbrook

Jay VanRensselaer/