The History of Evidence | History 1916 | Harvard Law School 2694





This course, offered at the Harvard Law School and jointly in the college (open to advanced undergraduates), will examine and compare the rules and standards of evidence in law, history, science, and journalism. What counts as proof in these fields varies and has changed over time, often wildly. Emphasis will be on the histories of Western Europe and the United States, from the middle ages to the present, with an eye toward understanding how ideas about evidence shape criminal law and with special attention to the rise of empiricism in the nineteenth century, the questioning of truth in the twentieth, and the consequences of the digital revolution in the twenty-first. Topics will include the histories of trial by ordeal, trial by jury, spectral evidence, the footnote, case law, fact checking, expert testimony, the polygraph, statistics, DNA, anonymous sources, and big data.

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