Medicine and Justice : Medico-Legal Practice in England and Wales, 1700–1914 book cover
1st Edition

Medicine and Justice
Medico-Legal Practice in England and Wales, 1700–1914

ISBN 9781472454126
Published December 11, 2019 by Routledge
334 Pages 13 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

This monograph makes a major new contribution to the historiography of criminal justice in England and Wales by focusing on the intersection of the history of law and crime with medical history. It does this through the lens provided by one group of historical actors, medical professionals who gave evidence in criminal proceedings. They are the means of illuminating the developing methods and personnel associated with investigating and prosecuting crime in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when two linchpins of modern society, centralised policing and the adversarial criminal trial, emerged and matured. The book is devoted to two central questions: what did medical practitioners contribute to the investigation of serious violent crime in the period 1700 to 1914, and what impact did this have on the process of criminal justice? Drawing on the details of 2,600 cases of infanticide, murder and rape which occurred in central England, Wales and London, the book offers a comparative long-term perspective on medico-legal practice –  that is, what doctors actually did when they were faced with a body that had become the object of a criminal investigation. It argues that medico-legal work developed in tandem with and was shaped by the needs of two evolving processes: pre-trial investigative procedures dominated successively by coroners, magistrates and the police; and criminal trials in which lawyers moved from the periphery to the centre of courtroom proceedings. In bringing together for the first time four groups of specialists – doctors, coroners, lawyers and police officers – this study offers a new interpretation of the processes that shaped the modern criminal justice system.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: the medico-legal landscape;  2. Medical education and forensic medicine;  3. Locating patterns of medico-legal provision;  4. Infant murder in medico-legal practice;  5. Crime (scene) investigation: expertise in action;  6. Conclusion: medicine and justice  


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Katherine D. Watson is a Reader in History at Oxford Brookes University and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. Her research interests focus on areas where medicine, crime and the law intersect, including the history of infanticide and crimes against children, forensic medicine and science, and an unusual form of assault known as vitriol throwing. She is the author of Poisoned Lives: English Poisoners and their Victims (2004) and Forensic Medicine in Western Society: A History (2011).