Excerpts from

The Civilization of Crime

Edited by Eric A. Johnson & Eric H. Monkkonen

(Philadelphia: John E. Potter and Company, 1870)


Beginning with homicide, we are able to tell a story that provides comfort for the advocates of modernization. We have a number of samples of homicide statistics form the Middle Ages. These show massive variations... from 5  

THE CIVILIZATION OF CRIME Violence in Town and Country since the Middle Ages

Along with most of the rest of Western culture, has crime itself become more "civilized"? This book exposes as myths the beliefs that society has become more violent than it has been in the past and that violence is more likely to occur in cities than in rural areas.

...however violent some large cities may be now, both rural and urban communities in Sweden, Holland, England, and other countries were far more violent during the late Middle Ages than any cities are today.

Contributors show that the dramatic change is due, in part, to the fact that violence was often tolerated or even accepted as a form of dispute settlement in village-dominated pre-modern society. Interpersonal violence declined in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, as dispute resolution was taken over by courts and other state institutions and the church became increasingly intolerant of it.

The book also challenges a number of other historical-sociological theories, among them that contemporary organized crime is new, and addresses continuing debate about the meaning and usefulness of crime statistics.

CONTRIBUTORS: Esther Cohen, Herman Diederiks, Florike Egmond, Eric A. Johnson, Michele Mancino, Eric H. Monkkonen, Eva Ísterberg, James A. Sharpe, Pieter Spierenburg, Jan Sundin, Barbara Weinberger

ERIC A. JOHNSON, a professor of history at Central Michigan University, is the author of Urbanization and Crime: Germany, 1871-1914. ERIC H. MONKKONEN, a professor of history at the University of California at Los Angeles, is the author of America Becomes Urban: The Development of U.S. Cities and Towns.

Nazi Terror : The Gestapo, Jews, and Ordinary Germans: Nazi Terror: The Gestapo, Jews and Ordinary Germans reconciles conflicting interpretations of the Nazi regime and its genocidal policies by focusing on how both party officials and average individuals created and maintained the totalitarianism that gripped German society from 1933 to the end of World War II.

Eric A. Johnson argues that historians have understood the authoritarian nature of the National Socialist state in two ways. Scholarship in the 1970's and 1980's highlighted the average person's resistance to the terror fostered by panoptic and ruthless police agencies, while more current investigations show that the Gestapo and related organizations often had less power than was previously assumed. These studies stress the roles played by citizens in the execution of Nazi policies. The most notable example of this interpretation is Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's chilling Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust. ...

Johnson argues that ordinary Germans did not willfully intend to harm others, though their cowardice and apathy made the implementation of Nazi policies possible. Drawing from court records and Gestapo files... Johnson shows that Germans' participation in the Third Reich was not heavily driven by images of anti-Semitism but by a routine obedience to the state.

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