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Long-Term Historical Trends in Violent Crime

Manuel Eisner is a Professor of Comparative and Developmental Criminology and Deputy Director of the University of Cambridge Institute of Criminology. He studied the history of crime from the thirteenth century until the end of the twentieth. This is a very short summary about his extraordinary work, which is published by the Department of Sociology at the University of Calgary.

Historical Trends between 1300 and 2000

The sudden decline in homicide [1630 to 1800) did not correlate with improved economic circumstances, stronger courts, or better policing.

Declines in homicide rates primarily resulted from some degree of pacification of encounters in public space, a reluctance to engage in physical confrontation over conflicts, and the waning of honour as a cultural code regulating everyday behaviour.

[A] large number of recent survey studies find that violence is correlated with low autonomy, unstable self-esteem, a high dependence on recognition by others, and limited competence in coping with conflict.

Historical Trends between 1300 and 2000

The data suggest a dramatic drop in the fifteenth century and in the twentieth century. The first drop may reflect missing or different sources. For the second drop medical technology have had a major impact. Deaths which occur within the first two hours after the injury may not be cured by modern medical treatment. But most of the deaths occurring after twenty-four hours can now be prevented.

The European countries developed differently In the nineteenth century: The highly industrialized countries of northern Europe, including Germany and France, had low homicide rates and were surrounded by a ring of high-homicide countries: Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, Finland and all eastern European countries.

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