History of Forensic Science

I am currently working on a book project that sits at the intersection of the history of law, science, medicine, and technology.  “Fear of the False: Forensic Science in Colonial India” explores notions of truth, trust, and justice in empire.

Here is a summary:

Between 1840 and 1947, the British Indian state created institutions for the scientific detection of crime. India’s new experts in toxicology, blood stains, handwriting analysis, and explosives were supposed to cut through the perjury and forgery of “mendacious natives” to extract objective scientific truth in the service of a neutral vision of justice. However, the new forensic science invited increasingly complicated and conflicting answers to the questions, “what is truth?” and “what is justice?” This study reveals that a system initially structured along fault lines of racial difference expanded into a site for competing conceptions of truth and justice among men of science and of law, both British and Indian.

I’ve blogged about the project and related topics:

On the Legal History Blog, I’ve also shared resources linking the history of law and science:

I have a related piece coming out soon: “The Imperial Serologist and Punitive Self-Harm: Blood stains and Legal Pluralism in British India.” I’m also working on an article about abortion in South Asia circa 1900. And I plan to write a future article on coroners in colonial India.

(updated on 2 Dec. 2017)