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Centre for the History of Medicine and Disease

Sixth CHMD Workshop

Legal Medicine in History

Sponsored by the Northern Centre for the History of Medicine supported by the WellcomeTrust

Date: 5 December 2008

Time: 11.30 - 17.15

Venue: Durham University, Queen's Campus, Stockton-on-Tees, Wolfson Research Institute, Seminar Room


Medical Expertise from the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century

In the first French-language medico-legal treatise published in 1575, royal surgeon Ambroise Paré underlined the responsibility and gravity experts must bring to their position ‘because judges pass sentence according to what is reported to them' (Paré, 1575). In so doing Paré posed a series of problems concerning the definition and enactment of medical expertise which are still relevant today. Who are the experts, what constitutes expertise and how can it be verified by the judiciary and wider lay society? How do we know that the expert's testimony is valid? Identifying the expert and defining the nature of expertise is a difficult task, not least because expertise is largely a modern notion which requires careful handling in a pre-modern context, but also because it remains highly contentious now. Expertise is also a notion which has been widely questioned by historians and philosophers of science for several decades. This one-day workshop brings together international specialists to explore the emergence and evolution of medical expertise from the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century, in various European contexts: France, Spain, Italy and England.