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History of Criminological Thought

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University of Ottawa
Deborah Landry

History of Criminological Thought Different times, different places, means different behaviors. o Knowledge on crime is based on context (context bound) Criminological Theories: o Nature of power/authority relationship o Socio-economic, political, intellectual and personal context of theorists. What is a Theory? o Tool that allows us to decide what something is and how to act towards it. Theory: o Generalizations that explains 2 or more phenomenon (observable event) and the conditions under which that relationship takes place. o About real situations, feelings, experiences and human behavior o Helps is make sense of facts that we already know and can be tested against new facts. o Tentative answers to commonly asked questions but NOT answers of questions to what ought to be. o Theory brings about a policy. Criminological Theories: o Account for why we have the laws and criminal justice system that we do (macro) o Tends to question why some people break the law and why some don’t (micro) o Explain human behavior and society o Every policy or actions regarding crime is based on underlying theories of crime. Theoretical Focuses o Macro: explains social structure and its effect o Micro: focuses on the individual or small group o Some events can be looked at as either macro or micro. Criteria for a Theory: (1)Testable, must be subject to falsifications (2)Logical soundness (consistency) (3)Logical fallacies (4)Empirical validity = weak or strong relationship a. Theory must be supported by research b. X must precede or produce y. c. Strong correlation means greater validity. (5)Scope = range of phenomenon which it proposes to explain (6)Usefulness and policy implications a. How well does the theory guide efforts to solve the problem b. How effective it is c. NOT Good Criteria: POPULARITY o Problem: o Illogical o Based on selective data and evidence o Ignores complexity of human beings and society o Legitimized through repetition (media) Common Theoretical Fallacies: o Ecological fallacy: making assumptions about individuals based on a generalization on a certain group of people. o Tautology: circular logic, cause and effect are same. Types of Criminological Theories: o Making and enforcing law o Account for why we have the laws we have and why the system operates that way o Explain law breaking o Accounts for criminal and delinquent behavior o More theories on why people break the law Relevance to History: o Easier to consider social phenomenon by examining unfamiliar events o Easier to question: did it work then? Pre-Antiquity: o Inu of Newfoundland o People living to survive o No central authority (no chief) o Any threat to survival of the tribe was considered deviant o Punishment was to make amends o Did not believe in violence as you need everyone in tribe to survive = believed in group reconciliation o Supernatural explanations for natural events (i.e. no rain) Antiquity – City States o Greece o Sparta = all about war o Athens = birth of democracy, focus on philosophy and art, lots of slaves Athens: o Ruler: Pericles o Global economy o Constitutional state: run by senate and it was not guided by supernatural paradigm o Consequences of courts = slavery, loss of freedom o Courts, trials, judges, appeals, no council o Defend yourself o Avoided concentration of power = Pericles had no say in the outcome of the sentence o Adversial system = must prove someone wrong or right and there was a hierarchy of citizens o Threat to social order was deviant o Murder theft= attacking structure of system o Religion = renamed people with biblical names o Christians were blames for the fall of the empire o Renounce to faith or face death o Rituals of Punishment o Crucifixion o Punishment was entertainment o Citizen status decides how you get punished o Women and children sold to clear debt Supernatural + Demonic Period o Basic explanation of criminal behavior was of diabolical possession o Criminal behavior was viewed as evidence that culprit was under the control of evil spirits or demons. o Solution: exorcise demons responsible for behavior o If failure = exile or execute person o Fate of criminal was less related to protection of society than with compliance with the will of the gods. o Failure of group to punish would leave the tribe open to the wrath and vengeance of the gods. o Goal: removal of offender History of Witchcraft o Bible condemns witches o Exodus 22:18 “though shall not suffer a witch to live” o Old testament books assumed the existence of witches and urged them to be killed. o St. Augustine o Said that God alone could go beyond the laws of the universe o Neither Satan nor witches had supernatural powers = it was the error of the pagans to believe in some other divine power. o Pope Innocent III o Opened attack on Cather heretics who believed in a world which God and Satan both has supernatural powers. o Said that Cather worshiped their evil deity in person. o Thomas Aquinas o Made case for existence of God = orthodoxy of Church o Argued world was full of evil and dangerous demons o Said demons had a habit of reaping the sperm of men and spreading it among women o Demons were seen as leading men into temptation o Witchcraft trials in Europe o Torture inflicted on heresies suspected of magical pacts or demon driven sexual misconduct =led to alarming confessions o Defendants admitted to flying on poles and attended assemblies by Satan appearing as goat or other animal. o Distinctive crime of witchcraft began to take shape o Pope III + Malleus Maleficarum o Malleus put to rest old orthodoxy that witches were powerless o Held that Christians has a obligation to hunt and kill witches o Malleus has tales of women having sex with demons and killing babies o Malleus come to help define the crime of witchcraft  Offered hints to judges and prosecutors (look for moles) o Reformation o Mass execution began to appear in early 1500s o Took crime of witchcraft very seriously o Over 160s years, 50,000 to 80,000 suspected witches o 80% were women o King James o Scotland witchhunt began by king James getting married = voyage back from honeymoon had terrible storms, the captain blamed witches. o 6 women confessed = king James began to take witchcraft seriously and authorized torture of suspected witches o Biggest witchhunt in British history o Shakespeare’s Macbeth o About witch-like characters o Begins to Decrease o Largest witchhunt in France occurred o 30 years war sparked additional witchhunts o Number of trials began to drop in 1640s  Holland by 1648 began to tolerate witchcraft o England executes last witch o Temperance Lloyd became last witch ever executed in England o Chief North thought trials were flawed = discouraged witchhunting in Europe, however outbreak in Salem began. o Enl
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