Historical Development of Criminology

The historical development of criminology can be traced back to ancient civilisations, but the formal discipline of criminology emerged in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Here is a brief overview of the major milestones in the historical development of criminology.

Classical school of criminology (18th century): The Classical School, led by Cesare Beccaria and Jeremy Bentham, laid the foundation for modern criminology. They emphasised the idea of free will and rationality, arguing that individuals choose to engage in criminal behaviour based on a cost-benefit analysis. They advocated for proportionate and predictable punishments to deter crime and advocated for the reform of criminal justice systems.

Positivist school of criminology (late 19th century): The Positivist School shifted the focus from free will to determinism and scientific methods. Cesare Lombroso, considered the father of modern criminology, introduced the concept of "born criminals" and proposed a biological explanation for criminal behaviour. Other positivist thinkers, such as Enrico Ferri and Raffaele Garofalo, expanded on Lombroso's work and introduced sociological and psychological factors into the study of crime.

Chicago school of sociology (early 20th century): The Chicago School, led by sociologists such as Robert Park, Ernest Burgess, and Clifford Shaw, focused on the social and environmental factors that contribute to crime. They explored the relationship between crime and urbanisation, social disorganisation, and the influence of neighbourhood characteristics. The Chicago School emphasised the importance of studying the social context and ecological factors in understanding crime.

Development of criminological theories: Throughout the 20th century, various criminological theories emerged to explain the causes of crime. These included strain theory, social learning theory, labelling theory, control theory, and rational choice theory, among others. These theories offered different perspectives on the individual, social, and structural factors that contribute to criminal behaviour.

Emergence of critical criminology (1960s onwards): Critical criminology emerged as a response to the limitations of traditional criminology and the need to address social inequalities and power structures. Critical criminologists, influenced by Marxism and critical theory, focused on the role of capitalism, social class, gender, race, and power in shaping crime and criminal justice. They highlighted the injustices and biases within the criminal justice system and called for social change and structural reforms.

Contemporary criminology: In recent decades, criminology has become an interdisciplinary field, incorporating insights from sociology, psychology, economics, and other disciplines. It has expanded its scope to include areas such as white-collar crime, corporate crime, cybercrime, terrorism, and global criminology. Contemporary criminologists employ a range of research methods, including quantitative and qualitative approaches, to study crime and develop evidence-based strategies for crime prevention and intervention.

The field of criminology continues to evolve, responding to new challenges and societal changes. It remains a dynamic discipline that seeks to understand and address the complex nature of crime, its causes, consequences, and societal responses.
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