Ada Maria Kuskowski

Assistant Professor of History
College Hall 306E
Office Hours: 
by appointment

Ada Kuskowski's research interests focus on cultural histories of legal knowledge. Her current book project, Law in the Vernacular: Composing Customary Law in Thirteenth Century France, examines lay juristic communities in Northern France as they sought to theorize custom and express it in the vernacular. It tells the story of the development of the law book, of custom as it shifts from practice to theorized norm, of the constitution of lay communities brought together by their interest in legal knowledge, of the constitution of authority within those communities, and more generally of the creative process that was fundamental to the customary legal culture of the day.

Kuskowski completed her Ph.D. at Cornell University in 2013, where she specialized in medieval legal history. She also holds Bachelor of Common Law and Bachelor of Civil Law degrees from McGill University Faculty of Law, and a Bachelor of Arts from McGill University. Prior to her arrival at Penn, she held the Jeremy duQuesnay Adams Centennial Professorship in Western European Medieval History as assistant professor at Southern Methodist University. She was also the Law & Society Postdoctoral Fellow at University of Wisconsin Madison Law School (2012-3), a Samuel I. Golieb Fellow in legal history at New York University Law School (2011-12), and a visiting scholar in the Quebec Research Centre for Private and Comparative Law at the McGill University Faculty of Law (2010).


She is a co-organizer, with Mary Channen Caldwell (Music) and Sarah M. Guérin (History of Art), of Gothic Arts: An Interdisciplinary Symposium, which celebrates the polyvalent definition of ars in the long thirteenth-century of the medieval francophone world. The symposium website:

Research Interests: 

Her intellectual interests include legal history and culture, law and the humanities, vernacular writing and translation, court culture, social histories of knowledge, history of the book, the crusading movement, exploration, travel and cross-cultural contact.

Selected Publications: 

Lingua Franca Legalis? A French Vernacular Legal Culture from England to the Levant” Reading Medieval Studies 40 (2014) 140-158.

“Inventing Legal Space: From Regional Custom to Common Law in the Coutumiers of Medieval France” in Medieval Constructions of Space: Practice, Place, and Territory from the 9th to the 15th Century, edited by Meredith Cohen and Fanny Madeleine (Ashgate, June 2014) 133-155. [refereed]

“The Development of Written Custom in England and in France: A Comparative Perspective” in Law, Justice, and Governance, New Views on Medieval English Constitutionalism, ed. by Richard Kaeuper (Brill, 2013).

“The Poor, The Secular Courts, and Access to Justice in Thirteenth Century France” in Poverty and Prosperity in the Middle Ages, edited by Cynthia Kosso and Anne Scott (Brepols, 2012).

Courses Taught: 

Fall 2016:

The Vikings

Spring 2017:

Love, Lust & Violence in the Middle Ages

War and Conquest in Medieval Europe