Early modern judicial procedure privileged the reading of bodily signs at every stage of investigation. In cases of violent crime, careful reading of the victim's body was essential to reconstituting the events of a crime and determining its gravity and appropriate punishment. Drawing on judicial and surgical treatises, this essay examines the important contributions of medical professionals to the adjudication of cases of violent crime in seventeenth-century France. It reveals how surgeons, with their hands-on, sensory approach to medical practice and expertise in wounds, became particularly effective partners for judges in deciphering corporeal clues, performing visual judgment that had direct bearing on the determination of guilt or innocence. As their role as court examiners became formalized, surgeons built their professional authority in the domain of forensic medicine, codifying and publicizing their sensory methods through the creation of a new medical genre: manuals for surgeons reporting for the courts.
Bodies of Evidence: Judges and Surgeons at the Crime Scene in Early Modern France
Katherine Dauge-Roth; Bodies of Evidence: Judges and Surgeons at the Crime Scene in Early Modern France. Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 1 January 2024; 54 (1): 137–163. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10829636-10948518
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