Barbara Shapiro: in memoriam

January 9, 2023
Dear friends,

I am writing to share the sad news that Barbara Shapiro, Professor Emerita of Rhetoric at Berkeley, has died. Barbara was born in 1934 and grew up in Tujunga, California. She received her PhD in History at Harvard in 1966 and taught at Occidental College, Pitzer, at Wheaton, where she also served as dean of the faculty; at UC San Diego, Wellesley, and Berkeley. She was a pathbreaking legal historian, specializing in the law and culture of early modern England. For many years, her work was often taught in both the departments of Rhetoric and in Legal Studies at Berkeley. She published seven books: John Wilkins, 1614-1672: An Intellectual Biography (University of California Press, 1969), History and Natural History in Seventeenth-Century England (1981), Beyond Reasonable Doubt and Probable Cause: Historical Perspectives on the Anglo-American Law of Evidence (University of California Press, 1993), Probability and Certainty in Seventeenth-Century England (Princeton University Press, 1985), A Culture of Fact: England 1550-1700 (Cornell University Press, 2000), Political Communication and Political Culture in England, 1558-1688 (Stanford University Press, 2012), and Law Reform in Early Modern England: Crown, Parliament and the Press (Hart, 2020). The latter was published when she was in her mid-eighties, as she remained an active scholar and continued to teach courses in Legal Studies after her “retirement.” She was also a person of abounding kindness. Barbara died December 30 after a short illness. She is survived by her husband, Martin Shapiro, and their daughter, Eve Ridgers. 

We will miss Barbara terribly and our hearts go out to Martin and Eve. 


Dylan C. Penningroth
Professor of Law and Alexander F. and May T. Morrison Professor of History
University of California at Berkeley
Affiliated Research Professor, American Bar Foundation