Ever since the dawn of human civilization, crime has been a baffling problem. There is hardly any society which is not beset with the problem of crime. Dr. Heinrich Oppenheimer in his book ‘Rationale of Punishment’ says that a crimeless society is a myth. Commenting on this aspect, Emile Durkheim says, “a society composed of persons with angelic qualities would not be free from violations of the norms of that society”. In fact, crime is a dynamic concept changing with social transformation and evolution of the human society .
Primitive societies did not recognize the distinction between the law of torts and crime but only knew the law of wrongs. The early English societies during 12th and the 13th century included only those acts as crimes which were against the State or religion. As a result, treason, blasphemy and rape were crimes whereas murder was not. Along came the concept of personal revenge, which demanded an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth . By the late 17th century, there wasn’t even a proper definition for crime. But the 18th century witnessed an era of miraculous reorientation of criminological thinking in European counties especially in France and Italy. The ideas of divine displeasure, demonic forces and other myths were replaced by logical and rational explanations. The twentieth century then saw a considerable increase in crime and with it, the study of criminology.
The study of criminology is an accumulation of centuries of beliefs, ideas, norms and laws of various societies. Because crime is a part of every human society, the study of criminology is also imperative to all societies. In this project report, I will discuss the various schools of thoughts of criminology starting from the early seventeenth century to the modern day schools of criminological thought.
Schools of criminology
It has been generally accepted that a systematic study of criminology was first taken up by the Italian scholar, Cesare Bonesana Marchese de Beccaria who is known as the founder of modern criminology. His greatest contribution to criminology was that he, for the first time, proceeded with the study of criminals on a scientific basis and reached certain conclusions from which definite methods of handling crime and criminals could be worked out .
In an attempt to find a rational explanation of crime, a large number of theories have been propounded. Various factors such as evil spirit, sin, disease, heredity or economic maladjustment etc have been put forward either singly or together to explain criminality. However, some criminologists still tend to lay greater emphasis on physical traits in order to justify exclusive resort to correctional methods for the treatment of offenders. Various schools of criminology are discussed below.
The period of seventeenth and eighteenth century in Europe was dominated by the scholasticism of Saint Thomas Aquinas. The dominance of religion in State activities was the chief characteristic of that time. In political sphere, thinkers such as Hobbes and Locke were concentrating on social contract as the basis of social evolution. The concept of Divine right of king advocating supremacy of monarch was held in great esteem. As scientific knowledge was yet unknown the concept of crime was rather vague and obscure. There was a general belief that man by nature is simple and his actions are controlled by some super power. It was generally believed that a man commits crime due to the influence of some external spirit called demon or devil. Thus an offender commits a wrongful act not because of his own free will but due to the influence of some external super power. No attempt was, however, made to probe into the real causes of crime.
This demonological theory of criminality propounded by the exponents of pre-classical school acknowledged the omnipotence of spirit, which they regarded as a great power . The...