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Theft under the eye of forensic doctors. Study of the concept of kleptomania during the 19th century





Introduced in 1816 by Dr. Matthey, the concept of kleptomania has developed multiple evolutions during the 19th Century. Whereas this concept has been hardly recognized by magistrates and alienists of the first 19th century, it still manages to maintain itself and it's been strengthened in the courts under the Third Republic. Meanwhile, its characteristics evolved sensitively because of the new clinical findings about insanity and also because of the appearance of the figure of « department store's thieves » often composed by rich women. As their thefts create surprises and incomprehension, they lead us to look for an explanation of this disturbing phenomenon in a pathological way . To better understand the relationships between justice and madness, this contribution focuses on the historical evolution of kleptomania, essentially based on printed resources: specialists publications and medical textbooks from those days.

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