Analysis of Records in Historical Research on Criminal Law. Criminal Records on Male Homosexuality in Paris in the 18th Century

Angela Taeger


Historians traditionally view records, i.e. texts of Modern History handed down in series, as the most reliable and frequently only database for elucidating the genesis of exercise of power in bureaucratic contexts. Hence, an analysis of records is of crucial importance for criminology-related historical longitudinal studies, for analyzing definition processes and for studies on the continuity or breaks in the course of determining norms and deviations. Moreover, records are suitable sources for historians because an analysis of the contents and contexts they provide helps researchers to grasp the interactive complexity or contingency of a field that is perceived as monolithic: the body of judicial definitions. Cross-sectional studies of records from institutions involved in providing a definition of a "violation of norms" on the one hand reveal widely varying and sometimes conflicting motives and objectives of those defining a violation of norms in the fields of legislature, judiciary and police administration; on the other hand, criminal records that have been analyzed in terms of their rhetorical purpose can be re-interpreted as ego-documents. The records provide information on the experience-based adoption of criminal norms, which also have a strong defining power, not only because they contain quotations and paraphrases from statements of those incriminated but also through the reports they contain on crime reconstruction. In this paper legislative, judicial and criminal records on homosexuality among men in Paris in the 18th century will be used to present these three different approaches in interpreting such records.
URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0201190


serial sources; longitudinal section of a determination analysis; conflicting bodies of definition; ego-document; experience-based adoption of norms


Copyright (c) 2002 Angela Taeger

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