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Pioneering Perspectives in Criminology: The Literature of 19th Century Positivism

NCJ Number
David M. Horton
Date Published
436 pages
This anthology provides the student and scholar interested in the historical aspects of positivistic criminological etiology with a small but representative sample of positivistic criminology contained in the English-language periodical publications of the 19th century.
The anthology is organized according to three broad positivistic criminological perspectives that emerged during the 19th century: biological explanations of criminal behavior, social and physical environmental considerations in crime causes, and cosmological explanations of crime. The biological explanations include articles on the physiognomy of John Caspar Lavater and the system of phrenology developed by Franz Joseph Gall, Johann Gaspar Spurzheim, and George Combe. Also presented in the section on biological explanations is a sequence of classic articles on the rise of criminal anthropology, including an overview of the state of criminal anthropological thought and practice at the close of the 19th century; three articles by Cesare Lombroso; and one article by his student and collaborator, Guglielmo Ferrero. This is followed by literary specimens that discuss hereditary degeneracy, articles on Juke-like studies, and exemplars of psycho-physiological explanations of crime that involve alcoholic inebriety and crime as a disease. The section concludes with articles on how best to explain crime from the perspective of biological positivism. The second section of the anthology profiles the broad range of perspectives that deal with the roles that social and physical environmental factors play in crime causation. The third and final section, which contains cosmological explanations, includes selections on the influence of temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure in producing criminal behavior. Each of the subtopics is accompanied by suggestions for further reading (annotated citations to similar articles in the English language periodical literature of the 19th century).