Historians As Expert Witnesses – A Wiki

“The one duty we owe to history is to rewrite it.”

Oscar Wilde, The Critic As Artist (1891)

“What will history say?  History, sir, will tell lies as usual.”

George Bernard Shaw, The Devil’s Disciple (1901)

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The Defense Research Institute recently announced that Bill Childs, a professor at the Western New England University School of Law, will be speaking the use of historians as expert witnesses in litigation.  Having puzzled about this very issue in previous writings, I look forward to Professor Childs’ contributions on the issue.  The announcement also noted Professor Childs’ creation, “the Historians as Experts Wiki,” which I knew about, but had not previously visited.

The wiki is a valuable resource of information about historians who have participated in the litigation process in all manner of cases, including art, asbestos, creationism, native Americans, holocaust, products liability, intellectual property, and voting rights.  There are pages for each historian witness, including expert witnesses in other fields, who have given testimony of an explicitly historical nature. The website is still in its formative stages, but it holds great promise as a resource to lawyers who are researching historians who have been listed as expert witnesses in their cases.

Most of my musings about historians as expert witnesses have been provoked by those who have testified about the history of silicosis.  Last year, I presented at a conference sponsored by the International Commission on Occupational Health (ICOH), about such historians.  See “A Walk on the Wild Side,” July 16, 2010.  My presentation abstract, along with all the proceedings of that conference, will be published next year as  “Courting Clio:  Historians and Their Testimony in Products Liability Action,” in: Brian Dolan and Paul Blanc, eds., At Work in the World: Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on the History of Occupational and Environmental Health, Perspectives in Medical Humanities, University of California Medical Humanities Consortium, University of California Press (2012)(in press).

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