History of Criminology

Topics: Criminology, Crime, Sociology Pages: 3 (789 words) Published: April 22, 2011
Classical School of thought
The history of criminology as a discipline of study often starts with influential figures such as Beccaria and Lombroso.   
I will provide a basic introduction and account of criminology’s history which begins with the writings of criminal law reformers in the 18th century, particularly in the work of Cesare Beccaria, Jeremy Bentham and John Howard.  These writers draw upon the Enlightenment ideals and characterize the offender as a rational free willed actor who engages in crime in a calculated way and is responsive to the deterrent penalties that these reformers advocated.   

The classical school of criminology is then challenged in the late 19th century by writers of the positivist school, which typically includes the writings of Cesare Lombroso, Enrico Ferri and Francis Galton, who adopted a more scientific empirical approach to the subject and investigated the criminal using the techniques of psychiatry; anthropology and other new human sciences.  The positivist school claimed to have discovered the existence of criminal types whose behaviour was determined rather than chosen, and for whom treatment rather than punishment was appropriate.   

Until the 18th century, before the emergence of criminology, supernatural explanations of crime were widely held to be true.  In ancient and medieval times, it was assumed that people who acted in deviant ways did so because God was testing their faith, punishing them, or using their behaviour to warn others.  Or else they were seen as sinners who had fallen from God’s grace and were tempted or even possessed by the devil or other evil forces.   

As outdated as this notion is, many people still believe in Satan and demonic possession.  
Historical data indicate that millions of witches were tortured and executed for the alleged practice of witchcraft.  Methods of torture were many.  Victims were deprived of sleep, crushed by heavy weights, forced to bathe in boiling water, forced to eat...
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