Customer Review

4.0 out of 5 stars Crime through the ages, 23 Nov 2012
This review is from: Criminal History of Mankind (Hardcover)
Colin Wilson's 'A Criminal History of Mankind' is an excellent survey of crime through the ages from one of the best writers in this field.

The only real criticisms I can make of the book are, first, it seems to me that Wilson fails to find a consistent narrative thread. He begins the book by placing the issues in a kind of evolutionary psychological context, borrowing a great deal from mainstream thinkers in the field, but the rest of the book reads like a disjointed series of historic criminal anecdotes that is not anchored in any theoretical perspective.

Second, Wilson's decision to all-but ignore the sociological angle represents, I think, a serious omission. He focuses his explanation of various criminal, deviant and anti-social behaviours on psychological and biologic factors only, which leaves out major and substantial areas of academic research that cut across the 'nature vs. nurture' debate. Wilson rightly ascribes blame for criminality to both nature and nurture, but largely ignores the wider social and environmental aspects of 'nurture'.

This preference on Wilson's part for psychological explanations is reflected in his criticisms of Brady, the serial killer-cum-philosophiser on crime. Wilson derides Brady for placing his abominable crimes in the context of an unjust society. I suspect the truth is a mediation of the two perspectives, that certain people - given the right stimuli and opportune moments of chance - are pre-disposed to serious violent sociopathic behaviour, but that such things as upbringing and social environment are of much greater importance when it comes to more ordinary common and garden forms of deviancy, particularly property-related crime.
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