On 16 May 2009 the Department of European Legal Tradition at the Law Faculty of Warsaw University held a conference to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the death of Henryk Kupiszewski (1927-1994). Kupiszewski was a papyrologist, romanist and legal historian who, throughout the 1960s to 1990s , left his mark on Roman law studies in Warsaw. During this period he abandoned the antiquarian approach of his teacher, Raphael Taubenschlag, and embraced the conception of Roman law as branch of legal science.
This new approach, probably influenced by Henryk Kupiszewski‘s subsequent friendly mentors, such as Max Kaser and Franz Wieacker, demands more from legal history. The discipline remains, indeed, a study of the legal phenomena of the past, but with the essential condition that they represent an interest for the lawyer of today. Of course, the relationship between Roman law and modern law must not be that of plain continuity or identity, but may be framed in terms of either similitude or contrast.
Starting from such premises, Henryk Kupiszewski frequently asked what Roman law signifies to contemporary legal science or, more simply, to avoid the perennial problem of the scientific nature of legal research, to the legal knowledge of today. The question may also be formulated in another fashion, namely to what extent the legal knowledge of civil law tradition, built upon the foundations of the pre-codifi-cation ius commune, actually preserves its Roman character.
Obviously, the recent demise of legal positivism, which was the first legal method to build a wall between contemporary legal doctrine and legal history, induced a relaxation of their mutual relationship. On the other hand the contribution of Roman lawyers, both to national law reform and to European harmonization of private law, remains less than that of the neo-Pandectist projects and the expectations of the Romanist community.