History of Forensic Science

I am currently working on a book project on the history of forensic science or medical jurisprudence in colonial India. “Fear of the False: Forensic Science and Trickery in Colonial India” explores notions of truth and trust in the context of empire, and sits at the intersection of the history of law, science, and medicine. The book examines attempts to manipulate forensic science in colonial India. Emerging during the 1850s, the new field of medical jurisprudence for India addressed a key anxiety of the colonial state: the idea that perjury, forgery, fabricated evidence, and false charges by colonized subjects were rife. But the fake and the false were also threats from within—when colonial police (both South Asian and British) and forensic experts (mostly British) tampered with evidence or gave questionable expert witness testimony in return for bribes, to secure convictions, or to avoid prosecution themselves. Part 1 examines the detection of dissimulation by colonized subjects through forensic serology and toxicology. Part 2 looks at the ways corrupt officials and experts threatened to unravel medical jurisprudence’s claims to credibility and authority.

I’m also working on a related side project: an article on abortion in South Asia circa 1900. And I plan to write a future article on coroners in colonial India.

(updated on 23 Feb. 2017)