This short but ambitious book, latest in Bloomsbury’s Writing History series, surveys not only crime but popular and official reactions to it, from ballads to prisons, starting in the eighteenth century and continuing into the present. Although focused mainly on academic historians in Britain and America, Knepper reaches with apparent ease across to Europe, with occasional forays into Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

The book’s organization is as simple as its subject is vast. After a brief introduction and then a chapter on “Legal History” tracing the origin of the genre, the next six chapters are organized around a series of “challenges” to prior approaches: “Statistics, Trends, and Techniques,” mostly borrowed from sociology; “Evolution and Psychoanalysis”; “The British Marxist Historians”; “The City and Its Criminals”; “Foucault’s Project”; and “Women, Gender, and Crime.” Knepper finishes with a nearly anticlimactic (British) “Empire and Colonialism,” most of its findings already anticipated.

Each chapter...

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