Select Page

Lara Bergers MSc

PhD candidate


Area(s) of interest: European History, History of the Body, Modern & Contemporary History

Cohort/Start PhD: 2018-2019

The history of criminalistics and forensic medicine in the Netherlands in the period 1930-1988

Utrecht University
Project: FORCE – Forensic Culture in Europe, 1930-2000
Promotor(es): Dr Willemijn Ruberg
Aanstelling: vanaf september 2018

Over the course of the 20th century, criminalistics, forensic medicine and forensic psychology/ psychiatry became firmly embedded in the police investigations and criminal trials in the Netherlands and around the globe. New forensic technologies became available, new institutes were established and the public became accustomed to the presence of scientific evidence in courtrooms. It is remarkable, then, that historians have given little attention to the history of forensic science in this period. In the Netherlands, a few interesting studies of forensic psychology/ psychiatry are available; meanwhile criminalistics and forensic medicine are especially neglected.
This project seeks to remedy the situation by mapping the changes in the use and reception (by both participants in trials and by society at large) of criminalistics and forensic medicine in cases of murder and rape in the Netherlands between 1930 and 1988 (the year DNA evidence was first used in a court case.) It suggests that an analysis focussing solely on legal, technological and institutional developments will be insufficient to explain these changes. Instead, it attempts to shed light on the broader constellation of factors that make up Dutch forensic culture. It does so by paying attention to the practices surrounding forensic expertise in courtrooms. This research is part of the ERC Consolidator project ‘Forensic Culture. A Comparative Analysis of Forensic Practices in Europe, 1930-2000’ led by dr. Willemijn Ruberg.