Long-Term Historical Trends of Homicide in Europe



This chapter deals with the long-term development of murder in Europe. It discusses the massive decline in homicide rates from the middle ages onward, followed by a modest rise since about 1970. Next, the chapter deals with qualitative aspects and changes in murder and serious violence. These include the vendetta and its decline; private reconciliation and the gradual criminalization of homicide; the social differentiation of male fighting; the emergence of domestic violence as a problem; and the marginalization of murder in the nineteenth century on the one hand and the advent of serial killers on the other. Geographically, the main emphasis is on England, France, Scandinavia, the Low Countries, and Italy. Body inspection reports, available since the late middle ages, constitute the principal source for the quantitative study of homicide rates. While the author includes data collected by himself in the Amsterdam archive, an overview of this sort must be based also on secondary literature. That literature, however, is based in its turn on primary sources, varying according to the period studied. These sources include medieval chronicles, charters and legislation, dossiers of criminal cases (in various periods of history), dueling manuals, ecclesiastical writings, newspapers, government reports, and, for the last 100 years or so, criminological studies.


Nineteenth Century Organize Crime Seventeenth Century Sixteenth Century Homicide Rate 
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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Erasmus UniversityRotterdamThe Netherlands

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