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The Anatomy of Justice: Forensic Medicine and Criminal Law In Nineteenth-century Egypt

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The reform of the Egyptian criminal justice system in the nineteenth century traditionally has been viewed as forming an important step in the establishment of a liberal and just rule of law. By studying how forensic medicine was introduced into nineteenth-century Egypt, I argue that the need to exercise better control over the population and to monitor crime lay behind the reform process as much as liberal ideas borrowed from Europe did. Drawing on a wide range of archival material, both legal and medical, I analyze the role played by autopsy in the criminal system and argue that the practice of autopsy was viewed differentially by 'ulamā', by Arabic-speaking, French-educated doctors and by the mostly illiterate masses. And contrary to the common wisdom, I conclude that the "modernization" of the Egyptian legal system was intended not to displace the sharīa but to support it.


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