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date: 27 November 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter approaches police records as a genre that gains from being considered in its relationships with other genres of writing. In particular, we will follow its long-standing relationship to detective fiction, the novel, and biography. Going further, the chapter emphasizes the intermedia character of police records not just in our time but also throughout their existence, indeed from their very origins. This approach opens to a more inclusive media history of police files. We will start with an analysis of the seminal late nineteenth-century French manuals prescribing the writing of a police file, the famous Bertillon-method manuals. We will then track their influence following their adoption nationally and internationally, with particular attention to the politics of their adoption in the colonies. We will also touch briefly on the relationship of early policing to other disciplines, such as anthropology and statistics, before moving to a closer look at its intersections with photography and literature.

Keywords: police records: history of, genre of writing, visual and intermedia aspects of, adoption in the colonies, identification, criminal identity, Alphonse Bertillon

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