Category Archives: Criminal Theory

Classification of the Criminal: A Brief History of Criminology


When creating the image of the ‘criminal man’ it becomes necessary to ask oneself whether there exists a definitive model of who is and who is not a criminal. Are lawbreakers anatomically similar? Do they constitute a class of people? In short, is there such thing as a criminal ‘type’? Throughout the next 3 essays I will seek to answer that question in the context of the 19th century American penitentiary. I will revolve around the central claim that throughout the course of the 19th century, the criminal type was identified and re-identified constantly along both biological and social terms. This dynamic definition of the ‘criminal man’ lends support to the fact that there actually did not exist a definitive definition at all. Developments in psychology and science demanded constant re-evaluation of what constitutes a criminal both into and out of the 19th century. In this essay, we will look into the history of criminology and how it had developed into the 19th century. From there we will enter the century with the end of classical and the beginning of positivist theory and explore how the 1800s saw developments in biological explanations of who the criminal man is. These explanations transformed themselves throughout the course of this time period and eventually fed into the 1900s with the beginning of social explanations to crime.


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