Senior Lecturer of History, University of Manchester

A senior lecturer of History at the University of Manchester, Ian Burney’s research and publication activity has focused on the crossroads of the histories of medicine, science, the law, and the social and cultural history of modern Britain. This work has been most significantly embodied in two published monographs in the history of forensic medicine and science.

He is now taking on the fascinating but almost wholly neglected field of twentieth-century English forensic medicine and science. His new project, Bodies, Traces and Spaces: A History of Forensic Homicide Investigation in 20th-century England (funded by the Wellcome Trust), traces out several major themes in twentieth-century English forensics. It charts the shifting relationship between the body-centred forensic medicine inherited from the nineteenth century, and the rise of a forensic science which supplemented (and to some extent supplanted) the pathological investigation of the body with an interest in the analysis of “things” (e.g. blood, hair, fibre, “dust”) in the newly articulated space of the “crime scene”.

Ian’s principal publications in this field of study, many of which are available on Open Access, are listed in the “publications” section on this page.


  • 1999–present
    Senior Lecturer in History, University of Manchester


  • 1993 
    University of California, Berkeley, PhD History


  • 2013
    “Making Space for Criminalistics: Hans Gross and fin-de-siècle CSI”, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44(1)
  • 2013
    Introducing Forensic Cultures, Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
  • 2013
    “Our Environment in Miniature: Dust and the early Twentieth-Century Forensic Imagination”, Representations 121
  • 2012
    “The House of Murder: The Christie Investigation and the Making of the Modern Crime Scene”, Memoirs of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society 150
  • 2006
    Poison, Detection and the Victorian Imagination , Manchester University Press
  • 2000
    Bodies of Evidence: Medicine and the Politics of the English Inquest, 1830-1926 , The Johns Hopkins University Press

Grants and Contracts

  • 2012
    Homicide investigation in 20th century England
    Principal Investigator
    Funding Source:
    Wellcome Trust