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Grant number: FB-57616-14

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Joel P. Eigen
Franklin and Marshall College (Lancaster, PA 17603-2802)

Medical Testimony and the Dynamics of Forensic Diagnosis in the English Legal System, 1760-1913

The proposed book, The Name is the Thing: the Dynamics of Forensic Diagnosis, will examine the change in medical terms employed by three generations of medical witnesses, testifying in criminal trials from 1760 to 1913 documented in the Old Bailey Sessions Papers. The latter years witnessed the introduction of homicidal mania: an insanity grounded in a disordered nervous system that purportedly left the accused incapable of exercising self control. Of interest to historians and sociologists of medicine, law, and the professions, the courtroom testimony of medical witnesses and the legal reception of medically adventurous diagnoses illustrates the strategies employed and stages met by the emerging profession of forensic psychiatry as it claimed what it considered to be a rightful role in deciphering the mind of the mad. In the process, ascribing criminal responsibility to violent assaults brought on by homicidal mania became an increasingly daunting task for the jury.

Project fields:
History and Philosophy of Science, Technology, and Medicine; Legal History; Sociology

Fellowships for College Teachers and Independent Scholars

Research Programs

Total amounts:
$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/1/2014 – 5/31/2015