Wednesday, September 14, 2022

E. Claire Cage's "The Science of Proof"

E. Claire Cage is Associate Professor of History at the University of South Alabama. Her first book Unnatural Frenchmen: The Politics of Priestly Celibacy and Marriage, 1720-1815 won the Baker-Burton Prize from the European History Section of the Southern Historical Association.

Cage applied the Page 99 Test to her new book, The Science of Proof: Forensic Medicine in Modern France, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book analyzes medical practitioners' efforts to detect malingering, or the practice of feigning medical conditions for specific purposes. Malingering became a pressing concern in legal medicine, also known as forensic medicine, in France largely in response to the introduction of conscription during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century medical publications on the subject detailed the tactics that medical practitioners employed when treating suspected malingerers. These works also revealed how lay persons’ expanding medical knowledge made them increasingly adept at malingering.

The treatment of this subject on page 99 features some of the central themes and key arguments in my book. These include the considerable challenges that medical men faced in performing medicolegal work, whether combatting malingering (Chapter 3), investigating death and performing autopsies (Chapter 1), detecting poisonings (Chapter 2), examining reproductive matters and crimes (Chapter 4), or evaluating the signs of sexual assault (Chapter 5). Despite these challenges, many practitioners of legal medicine articulated great confidence in their abilities and findings as part of broader efforts to establish authority and to raise the profile of their profession. Some medical men warned that failing to expose malingerers would harm not only their individual reputations but also the field of medicine itself. On page 99, I also allude to debates that emerged within the medical community in the latter half of the nineteenth century on whether doctors’ efforts to expose malingering, which included threats, painful procedures, and the use of anesthesia, had gone too far and risked the dignity of their profession. Readers who turn to page 99 would be able to get a general sense of my book’s argument and approach as well as a more specific examination of the possibilities and pitfalls for doctors tasked with detecting malingering in late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century France.
Learn more about The Science of Proof at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue