UCL Centre for the History of Psychological Disciplines


British Psychological Society History of Psychological Disciplines Seminar Series

Sponsored by the British Psychological Society. Open to the public.

Organiser: Professor Sonu Shamdasani (UCL)

Monday 27th January

Dr. Heather Wolffram (University of Canterbury, New Zealand)

Hans Gross and the Birth of the Witness

We are by now familiar with historical narratives, which relate the emergence of the criminal as an object of scientific study during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. We have excellent studies in a wide range of national contexts about the struggle between sociological and biological models of criminality, as well as about the tangible and sometimes terrible effects that such theories had on penal policy, policing and institutions, including prisons and asylums. We also have an increasingly clear idea of the manner in which such ideas provided a vehicle for the professionalization of fields like psychiatry and the evolution of fields such as law.

Emerging more recently and in response to our own society’s fascination with forensic technologies have been attempts to look at the early history of criminalistics and police science. Such histories, like those which focus on the criminal, have identified a late nineteenth century desire to make detection as scientific as possible, not only as a means of capturing and punishing criminals, and protecting society, but also as a means of professionalising policing.

These works have provided us with a much better understanding of policing, criminology and forensics, but perhaps do not fully reflect the more holistic view of crime that late nineteenth century criminalists sometimes took. The Austrian investigating judge Hans Gross, for example, believed that as well as forensic expertise the criminalist required a psychological understanding of all those involved in crime, its investigation and prosecution. Although Gross was concerned with the psychology of criminals, police investigators, experts and judges, he was perhaps most focussed on the figure of the witness. Using Gross’ book Criminal Psychology this paper will explore how and why the witness became an object of scientific study during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Time: 6pm to 7.30pm

Arts and Humanities Common Room (G24), Foster Court, Malet Place, University College London.

From the Torrington Place entrance to UCL, enter the campus on Malet Place. After fifty metres, you will find Foser court on the right hand side. Turn right under the underpass, and enter via the second door on the right. The common room is straight ahead.


For details and abstracts of previous talks since 2007, click here

Damaging the Body Seminar series

Organiser: Sarah Chaney

For details, see www.damagingthebody.org

Post-graduate Reseach Seminars

Comprising work-in-progress presentations and discussions of key secondary and historical texts. Post-graduate students interested in attending should contact Professor Shamdasani (s.shamdasani@ucl.ac.uk).

Post-gradute Reading Group

Organised by the post-graduate students. Those interested in attending should contact Sarah Chaney (s.chaney@ucl.ac.uk).

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