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The second thesis of the “Trento Manifesto” investigates to what extent the study of legal phenomena of the past can shed light on contemporary legal developments. This question could be relevant as well with reference to old customary codes, such as the Sardinian one, known as Codice barbaricino.

In specific areas of Sardinia, an oral customary law — which has been in force for centuries — is still partly applicable. This body of customary rules was transcribed in the 20th century into a code by the Italian scholar Antonio Pigliaru, thus drawing the attention of the mainstream legal culture.

The cornerstone of the Sardinian legal system is the concept of “revenge” as the natural way to put an end to conflicts. Due to the peculiar geographical, social and economic features of Sardinia, revenge and its subsequent codification easily became instruments for affirming cultural, social and historical uniqueness. While pastoral societies guarded jealously their legal traditions to protect the community from external influences, Pigliaru used the transcription to build an original Sardinian identity by basing his work on two main questions: did the unwritten Codice barbaricino influence the social and political context of Sardinia? What can this experience of consolidation of an oral legal culture teach to modern legal scholarship?

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