Classic Criminology:
1. Cesare Beccaria
  • human beings were primarily driven by self-interest, but would be rational in their actions;
  • suggested role of government was to act on behalf and in best interest of all citizens;
  • law should act as a sufficient deterrent to those likely to break it, and the punishment should be proportionately greater than the potential pleasure/gain by breaking it
2. Jeremy Bentham
  • Utilitarianism – law should ensure the greatest good for the greatest number of people;
  • law should be based on a social contract between government and citizens, with each side accepting certain consequences if contract were broken
  • Focus on biological and psychological factors (rather than legal system) to explain criminal behaviour
Sociological Perspectives
1. Anomie Theory
  • as society moved from a rural to an urban setting, the traditional values and bonds that regulated an individual’s behaviour within the group were weakened;
  • no longer restrained by societal norms and given anonymity in a big city, certain individuals turned to crime
2. Ecological School
  • communities that suffered from high rates of poverty and social disintegration were more likely to condone criminal activity than a more affluent neighbourhood (countered by theories blaming capitalism for crime)
3.Social Conflict


  • crime is inevitable in a capitalist society (competition for wealth and resources is encouraged)
4. Consensus


  • there is a universal definition of right and wrong and criminal law reflects this consensus
Cite this article as: William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team), "Historical Perspectives on Criminology," in SchoolWorkHelper, 2019,

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