Historical Development of Criminology

Criminology is the study of crime and criminals, including the causes, prevention,
correction, and impact of crime on society. Since it emerged in the late 1800s as part of a movement for prison reform, criminology has evolved into a multidisciplinary effort to identify the root causes of crime and develop effective methods for preventing it, punishing its perpetrators, and mitigating its effect on victims. In this article, I am going to discuss the historical development of Criminology.

History of Criminology

Criminology is the scientific procedure to studying both social and individual criminal
actions. It is divided up into several separate disciplines including psychology, economics, political science, natural science, biology and the evolution and development of people. The field of study has a long, rich history and has changed a lot.

Criminology truly began in Europe between the late 1700’s and the early 1800’s.
Classical school of criminology founders were theorists on crime and punishment development.

These people include writers Cesare Beccaria and Jeremy Bentham. Although torture was taking place all over the continent, especially for confessions and testimonies, classical school believed torture to be wrong.

According to the classic school of thought, crimes are committed through free will. People know what they are doing and should be punished.

They did explain that the criminal justice system drastically needed to be modernized and improved. At that time, criminal justice included painful torture such as stretching, crushing and stabbing of the accused bodies.

The Neo-classical school of thought followed the classic school and brought with it a
few revisions. For one, this way of thinking suggests that people can be led by behaviour, which can be irrational.

Determinism is the belief that all actions are pre-established in time and that free will is only an illusion. It, along with the requirement of scientific evidence for criminal conviction, falls under the positivist school of thought. Positivists believe that all people are different, both intellectually and physically.

In the 1920s, Robert E. Park and Ernest Burgess presented their Chicago school of
thought through the University of Chicago. The study related criminology to sociology and provided research on concentric zones, or zones in transition where people tend to be more criminally active than others.

Contemporary criminology includes a similar hedonistic theory that people can deter
emotions and actions according to incentive manipulation. Thus, criminology today includes categorizing criminal’s motives whether they are instrumental or expressive. Instrumental motivation means the person has more incentive, outside the act itself, for committing a crime.

The crime itself is the desired result. Common feelings for expressive motivation crimes include anger or rage, fear, jealousy and passion.


Criminology combines social action data with criminal activity to understand motive and determine appropriate consequences. As such, criminology is necessary for the proper development and execution of criminal justice systems.

From the case development to long after the verdict, criminologists are responsible for understanding why criminals do what they do. Through this information people will be safer, better understood and justly punished for crimes. The ultimate motive behind criminology though, is the prevention of crime.

This is historical development of Criminology in brief. I hope this will be helpful in attempting the CSS examination. If you have any question ask it in the comment section below.

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