The Judge and The Historian

Ramses Delafontaine

Historians as Expert Witnesses Ramses Delafontaine


This website was originally established as an accompanying reference list for Ramses Delafontaine’s master thesis presented at the University of Ghent, Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, submitted for the degree of Master of Arts in History in 2013.
The original website can be found here:

In Oktober of 2014, Delafontaine started his FWO Fellowship at the History Department of Ghent University. He continues his research on the use of historical argumentation in court under the project title: The Judge and The Historian. In order to accommodate his broadening research this new website was built accommodated by Ghent University.

Delafontaine’s thesis addressed the “Forensification of History”.

He defined the forensification of history as follows:

“The Forensification of History is an international phenomenon in which historians [and the following is key] testify an opinion in court as expert witnesses on a historical matter on which they have expert knowledge [which is understood as having extensively researched and published peer reviewed on the subject] .”

Three elements are thus important:

1. The Forensification of History is an international phenomenon. There are five categories that can be distinguished. 1. Transnational Justice, 2. post-World War II and post-Holocaust trials, 3. Holocaust-denial trials and defamation cases against professional and amateur historians, 4. Native peoples-related litigation in former Commonwealth nations, and 5. Civil litigation in the United States and Europe.

2. The expert witness testifies in court, as opposed to a consultant who delivers his research results to legal counsel.

3. The expert witness has expert knowledge, which is understood as having intensively published and researched and published peer reviewed material on the subject and is going to aid the trier of fact.

For his thesis Delafontaine compared the European and American experience of this close collaboration of history and law. As a “case study”, he researched the involvement of historians as expert witnesses in tobacco litigation.

One of the conclusions he made was that there is a problem of transparency with historians who are working in tobacco litigation.

He has made a list of all the historians [that he was able to find, which is probably far less than the real number], and confronted their profiles with this problem of transparency. He decided to stir and aid debate among historians and legal scholars by publishing the results of his quantitative overview on this website.

For more information on his thesis or issues connected to this subject, feel free to contact him at: Ramses Delafontaine