Catherine L. Evans
I am a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate in the History Department at Princeton University. I earned a B.A. in Jurisprudence from University College, Oxford in 2010, and a B.A. in History from McGill University. I work on criminal law in Britain and its empire, with a particular interest in how law intersected with medicine, anthropology, and epistemology in colonial courtrooms.
My dissertation, “Persons Dwelling in the Borderland: Responsibility and Criminal Law in the Late-Nineteenth-Century British Empire”, explores the problem of assessing mens rea in British courts in the last decades of the nineteenth century. The British empire was built on the common law. A network of courts stretched from the Australian outback to the Canadian tundra, with appeals and decisions moving to and from the office of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council on Downing Street. British and British-trained lawyers around the world struggled to apply common law rules and principles to communities with their own legal systems, cosmologies, and understandings of guilt. The dissertation is structured around capital case files drawn from over a dozen archives in Canada, Australia and Britain. I focus on cultural difference (in the form of the so-called ‘cultural defence’) and insanity as defences to murder, and argue that both defences can be framed as questions about the borders of legal, and moral, subjecthood.
This year, I was awarded a Harold W. Dodds Fellowship, one of Princeton’s competitive Honorific Fellowships. I serve on the Graduate Student Outreach Committee of the American Society for Legal History (ASLH), and I am a Graduate Associate of the Center for History, Economics and Politics at Harvard University.