History of crime in Britain; Western forensic medicine and science in the post-medieval period.
Katherine Watson's doctoral thesis investigated the role of scientific expertise in the late Victorian period. The theme of ‘expertise’ recurs in her current work, which focuses on topics where medicine, crime and the law intersect. Her main areas of research are:
- The history of crime in Britain since the early 18th century (especially a) criminal poisoning and related offences, b) homicide, and c) vitriol throwing), with a particular emphasis on medico-legal issues concerning these offences, the gender and social background of victims and perpetrators, the responses of the legal system, investigative practices, and regional variations (in particular, comparing England and Wales) in these trends.
- The history of medicine in post-1700 Britain, particularly the development of forensic medicine and the careers of its practitioners.
- The history of chemistry post-1750, especially in relation to toxicology and forensic techniques.
She is currently working on a book on the history of acid throwing, an unusual form of assault, from the early eighteenth century through the 1970s. This strand of her research will be expanded and developed in future work, which will include further detailed study of assault as a form of interpersonal violence. She has also returned to the history of poisoning crimes, focusing on its incidence in Scotland.
Her research interests have been reflected in appearances in television documentaries since 2005, most recently in Murder, Mystery and My Family (S5 Ep5, 2021).
You can listen to a podcast - Moments In Medicine #9: Before CSI: The Origins of Forensic Medicine and Science. And she blogs with two colleagues in North America - you can read our posts on the history of law, crime and justice at Legal History Miscellany.
Research group membership
Dr Watson leads the History of Crime research group in the School of History, Philosophy and Culture.