The Forensic Historian: Using Science to Reexamine the Past, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Forensic Historian

Using Science to Reexamine the Past, 1st Edition

By Robert C Williams


160 pages | 23 B/W Illus.

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Modern forensic science has significantly affected historical debate over some well-known past crimes or mysteries, utilizing modern DNA, nuclear, and chemical analyses to reexamine the past. This book takes an in-depth look at 20 significant cases where investigators have applied new forensic techniques to confirm, dispute, or revise accepted historical accounts. Among the cases included are the murder of King Tut, the validity of the Vinland Map, the authenticity of the Hitler diaries, Joan of Arc's ashes, the bones of Anastasia, arsenic and the death of Napoleon, and the dating of the Shroud of Turin, plus 13 more.


"There is a sense of mystery and discovery that courses its way through the cases, helping to make the reading compelling. This is a near-perfect little book to introduce students and teachers to this relatively new and exciting field of forensic history; it simplifies a complex subject without dumbing it down." —Teaching History

"Williams provides an introduction to the field of forensic history that is brief but substantial, clearly and engagingly written, and therefore accessible to undergraduates at any level, not only as an extension to Williams' widely used guide for history majors, The Historian's Toolbox, but even for those students in the sciences fulfilling general education requirements in introductory history courses. … The book is inviting and interesting enough for students that instructors should recognize its potential to inspire rich critical discussions." —World History Connected

"This book has the possibility of introducing students to new ways to think about techniques that they already recognize from TV and movies and to apply those means of analysis to broad historical questions. From Ivan the Terrible to Osama bin Laden, the possibilities for identification, analysis and interpretation of interest to schools and the general public are vast and exciting." —Jannelle Warren-Findley, Arizona State University

"Clio meets CSI. In this remarkable book Williams utilizes science and modern technology in a forensic analysis of a wide range of historical issues. The result is an entertaining, informative, and provocative collection of short essays that should delight both historians and scientists, while it raises the question of what other insights into the past we can gain from the application of this methodology." —Cary D. Wintz, Distinguished Professor of History, Texas Southern University

"An excellent cross-disciplinary book for use in any entry level history course or as a historical companion text to any upper level forensic science course. A series of fascinating examples of how forensic science has been used behind the scenes to answer previously unanswered questions thereby giving historians a different perspective on works of art, forgeries, relics, and even historical figures and events." —Clara Tóth, Professor of Biology, Forensic Science Program Co-Coordinator, St. Thomas Aquinas College

Table of Contents

Preface: Mildred Trotter and the Boneyard of War

1. Introduction: Scope of Evidence

2. Faking It: Chemistry and Forgery

3. Atomic Evidence

4. A Question of Identity: From Bones to DNA Fingerprinting

5. Not-So-Cold Cases

6. Conclusion: Modern Forensics and Historical Revision




About the Author

About the Author

Robert C. Williams is Vail Professor of History and Dean of Faculty Emeritus at Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina, and a founding board member of History Associates Incorporated.. He is the author of numerous books and articles in modern Russian, American, and European history, including The Historian's Toolbox, Klaus Fuchs: Atom Spy, and Ruling Russian Eurasia: Khans, Clans, and Tsars.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Archaeology