Monday, 7 September 2020

New book by Dr Alexa Neale

Photographing Crime Scenes in Twentieth-Century London

#HCNet member Alexa Neale is pleased to announce publication of her first monograph titled Photographing Crime Scenes in Twentieth-Century London: Microhistories of Domestic Murder (London: Bloomsbury, 2020).

An extract from the publisher's description reads;

"How can we read a crime scene photograph? Photographing Crime Scenes in 20th-Century London will take you inside homes that were murder crime scenes to read their geographical and symbolic meanings in the light of the development of crime scene photography, forensic analysis and psychological testing. In doing so, it reveals how photographs of domestic objects and spaces were more often used to recreate a narrative for the murder based on the defendant's perceived identity than to prove they committed the crime at all."

Each chapter explores narratives of crime and their relationship to visual representations of murder, space and place, visiting homes in Camden Town, Bloomsbury, Knightsbridge, Limehouse, St. Pancras and North Kensington. Published as part of the Bloomsbury series Histories of Crime, Deviance and Punishment, the book draws on the work of many other distinguished Historical Criminologists and #HCNet members. 

As of September 2020 the book is available in Hardback or eBook, or via Bloomsbury Collections to subscribing institutions. A preview of the book can be read below or by clicking here



Friday, 4 September 2020

States, People, and the History of Social Change

New Book Series

McGill-Queen’s University Press has announced the launch of a new book series which aims to bring together cutting-edge work on the history of criminal justice, welfare and other areas of social change and social policy. 

Edited by Rosalind Crone and Heather Shore, works in the series will explore how people have negotiated the use of state power, and what social consequences have followed from state efforts to regulate, improve and otherwise shape people’s lives. 

The series welcomes international scholars whose research explores social policy (and its earlier equivalents) as well as other responses to social need, in historical perspective.

Titles under advance contract in the series include #HCNet members. See the flyer for more details:



Thursday, 3 September 2020

What next for #HCNet?

Over the coming weeks and months, the #HCNet steering group will turn to plans for activities over the coming year (2020-2021). 

Historical Criminology Network Chair Dave Churchill invites suggestions for events and initiatives, thoughts or comments by email. Drop him a line at 

Dave says "With historical criminology groups springing up in other parts of the world, perhaps we should take the opportunity to start a conversation across borders. Or perhaps this is the year to come together to discuss how to embed historical perspectives in teaching in criminology and related disciplines. Or perhaps a series of shorter events, spread over the year, would be the best way to keep in touch in a virtual environment."

What do you think? Comments also welcome below.

A blackboard with the words "what's next" written on it in chalk
Image by Gerd Altmann via Pixabay

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

#HCNet Workshop Report

Seven New Conversations in Historical Criminology

#HCNet - the British Society of Criminology's Historical Criminology Network - held an online workshop on 15 June 2020, bringing together seven working groups to explore areas of common interest in historical criminology. 

Discussions included a wide range of themes, from walking methods to police corruption, path dependence to dark tourism. 

HCNet Chair David Churchill had originally planned to hold the workshop as an in-person event but the UK lockdown meant a change of plan. David, BSC staff and working group coordinators all worked hard to make the event a success and overcome the challenges presented by the online format. Gratefully, holding the workshop virtually meant that #HCNet members all over the world, who might not otherwise have been able to attend, could participate.

You can now read the full write-up of the event on the BSC blog, featuring wonderful illustrations by Laura Evans of Nifty Fox Creative.

Creative graphic showing text "Historical Criminology Workshop" in grey against a purple background illustrated with a magnifying glass and thumbprint.
(c) 2020 Laura Evans, Nifty Fox Creative.

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Convict Lives on Cockatoo Island (Australia) - free online event

10 September 2020 08:30 (UK) / 17:30 (NSW)

As part of the New South Wales History Council's "History Week", #HCNet member Dr Katherine Roscoe will deliver a free online lecture to a global audience, telling the stories of convicts incarcerated on Cockatoo Island (1839-69). 

Dr Roscoe will unpack the mythology around Sydney’s “Alcatraz” and challenge convicts' label as “criminals incapable of reform”. Stories include: John Fahey, the Irish soldier-turned-“bushman”, “Black” John Perry, the prize-winning boxer; bushranger and poet, Owen Suffolk; Tan, a Chinese gold-digger who refused to work; and the relationship between “two Fredericks”. 

Together, their stories tell us about life in the Australian colony, from the bush to the bustling port city, and how prisoners survived or even thrived on the island. 

Dr Roscoe will also introduce digital resources available at This research is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (UK)

Registering is essential as attendees will be able to view the lecture live via a Zoom link (to be emailed to attendees prior to the event) and to participate in a 10-minute audience Q&A.

For those unable to attend, the lecture will be uploaded to NSW History Council's YouTube after the event.

The event takes place at 8.30am UK time / 17.30 Sydney/NSW time.

For tickets and more details visit Eventbrite.

Black and white interior of a large industrial hangar with steel girder frame and fenced-off heavy industrial machinery in foreground and middle distance
Cockatoo Island Industrial Plant by Boyd159 via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0  


Monday, 31 August 2020

Marginalised Voices in Criminology

Call for Chapters

Kelly Stockdale and Michelle Addison have issued a call for chapters to contribute to a planned edited book: ‘Marginalised Voices in Criminology: Theory, Criminal Justice, and Contemporary Research’. 

This inter-disciplinary and international collection seeks to engage with discussions and debates around power, colonialism, and identity, and how the criminological curriculum (re)produces doxa grounded in hegemony and privilege. 

Authors interested in contributing should submit a 250-word abstract to by 30 October 2020. 

More details are provided in the full call, available to download or view below.



Sunday, 30 August 2020

New book by Dr Anastasia Dukova

To Preserve and Protect: Policing Colonial Brisbane

Dr Anastasia Dukova has recently published a new book To Preserve and Protect: Policing Colonial Brisbane (University of Queensland Press, 2020). For more information, see the publisher's website:

Book description:
"This book is a study of the police of Brisbane from 1828 to the early 1900s. It examines the individuals and the institution, and traces the transition from convict police to the professional, centrally organised Queensland Police Force. Sociology demonstrates that individuals and society, biography and history are inextricably linked: an individual ‘lives out a biography, and lives it out within some historical sequence. By the fact of this living, [the individual] contributes, however minutely, to the shaping of this society and to the course of history, even as [they are] made by society and by its historical push and shove.’ (Mills) This book explores the inner life and external career of a variety of individuals, including colonial police officers Peter ‘Duff’ Murphy, Samuel Sneyd, Samuel Lloyd, Thomas Tyrrell and James Nethercote, as well as the criminals they policed, such as Susan McGowan and Charles Durant. By recreating the biographies of these individuals and placing them within the wider setting of the police organisation and the society it served, To Preserve and Protect: Policing Colonial Brisbane reveals how the colonial society both formed and was formed by the individuals within it. In its essence, this book is a history of interactions between the police and the policed."

Advance reviews:
‘These colonial stories are vitally important for our organisation to remember and celebrate as they map our heritage and journey over the past two centuries. This book also illustrates the crucial changes and developments that have shaped our organisation over the past 155 years. I am proud to reflect on the unique Brisbane policing history and acknowledge our journey.’ - Katarina Carroll, Commissioner of the Queensland Police Service

‘To Preserve and Protect is an example of criminal justice history at its best … incorporating the voices of both police and the policed to provide a unique perspective on Brisbane’s past.’ - Professor Dean Wilson, School of Law, Politics and Sociology, University of Sussex, UK

Book cover with large lettering on purple background, a fancy knot illustration.

Thursday, 11 June 2020

Call for Papers: Legacies of Empire

Punishment and Society Special Issue

Submissions are sought for a special issue of the journal Punishment and Society, to be titled ‘Legacies of Empire’.

The Guest Editors say:

The special issue will examine the global legacy of empire and colonialism through its effects on the penal regimes and practices of former colonies. Submissions are sought which explore the historical patterns of penal journeys as well as the contemporary legacy of many of these phenomena, including the aftermath of colonial policies on Indigenous communities. Contributions are sought from history, sociology, law, and criminology, capturing interdisciplinary work in which the concept of ‘empire’ is broadly conceived, and which contribute to the field of punishment and society (e.g. through literature, theory, empirical material).
For scholars of crime and punishment, greater commitment than ever is necessary to engage with perspectives that critique the times in which we live. The intention of this special issue is to further the democratization of criminological knowledge and to create a space for voices which embrace southern criminological and postcolonial perspectives. We particularly welcome submissions from scholars based in the Global South.

Abstracts of 500 words should be sent to the guest editors (email below) by 15th August 2020. Submissions are received on a competitive basis and will be reviewed by the guest editors. A selection will be accepted and the full manuscript subject to peer review (deadline for submission of final manuscript TBC with contributors at a later date).

Guest editors:
Lizzie Seal (University of Sussex, UK)
Bharat Malkani (Cardiff University, UK)
Lynsey Black (Maynooth University, Ireland)
Florence Seemungal (University of the West Indies Open Campus, Trinidad and Tobago)
Roger Ball (University of Sussex, UK)

A black and white aerial photograph of a coastal region with distant mountains, harbour area, jetties and land promontories.
Guantánamo Bay, Cuba (undated, author unknown) via


Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Call for contributions: Times of Crisis

BSC Summer Newsletter

The British Society of Criminology (BSC) has announced the theme of its summer newsletter as ‘Times of Crisis’. They invite the submission of short articles (1,500 - 2000 words) on this theme from a criminological perspective. 

Relevant topics include, but are not limited to, COVID 19 and its criminological implications and protests which started recently in the United States and Hong Kong but which are now resonating around the world. 

Submissions are welcome from academics and practitioners. The deadline is 13 July 2020. If you would like to submit an article please contact Lizzie Seal by 15 June 2020.

Black and white photograph of a large crowd of people, possibly numbering thousands, some carrying placards, on the streets of a city at night. There are high-rise buildings and neon lights in the background.
'Hong Kong Protests 2014' by taichi87 via Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 

Tuesday, 9 June 2020

New book series launched

Emerald Advances in Historical Criminology

A new book series in historical criminology has recently been launched - 'Emerald Advances in Historical Criminology' - which aims to publish exciting and original work which uses historical perspectives and approaches to enrich scholarship in criminology. The series is edited by David Churchill (University of Leeds and #HCNet Chair) and Christopher Mullins (Southern Illinois University), and supported by a broad international editorial board.

The series embraces a broad, pluralistic understanding of ‘the historical’ and its potential applications to criminology, and it provides an inclusive platform for a range of approaches which, in various ways, seek to orient criminological enquiry to history or to the dynamics of historical time. It welcomes both conventional studies in the history of crime and criminal justice and innovative and experimental work which extends the conceptual, theoretical, methodological and topical range of historical criminology. It also encourages historical scholarship on non-traditional topics in criminology (such as environmental harms, war and state crime) and inventive modes of theorising and practising historical research (including processual approaches and futures research). The series aims to develop a genuinely international body of scholarship in historical criminology and welcomes proposals from established and early career scholars.

More information on the series is available on the publisher’s website at the following link: If you have an idea for a book that might fit with the series, please get in touch either with David ( or Christopher (

Illustration from John Reynolds, Triumphs of Gods Revenge and the Crying and Execrable Sin of (Wilful and Premeditated) Murther (London: A.M. for William Lee, 1670) via Public Domain Review.

Monday, 8 June 2020

New book published on history of private security

Private Security and the Modern State

A new book on the history of private security has been published, featuring the work of several #HCNet members. 

Private Security and the Modern State: Historical and Comparative Perspectives, edited by David Churchill, Dolores Janiewski and Pieter Leloup, is the first international study of the history of private security. Drawing together researchers from criminology, socio-legal studies and history, the book examines multiple forms of 'private security' - including detective agencies, insurance companies, moral campaigners, employers’ associations, paramilitary organizations, self-protection and vigilantism - in Britain, the US, France, Belgium and Germany across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Taken together, these studies offer a nuanced assessment of the historical evolution of private security and its fluid, contested and mutually constitutive relationship with state agencies, public policing and the criminal justice system. 

The book is published by Routledge in the 'SOLON Explorations in Crime and Criminal Justice Histories' series. More information is available here:

Book cover image reading SOLON Explorations in Crime and Criminal Justice by Routledge titled Private Security and the Modern State: Historical and Comparative Perspectives edited by David Churchill, Dolores Janiewski and Pieter Leloup. The central image is a black and white illustration of a mustachioed man in a long-coat and hat resembling a uniform grabbing the shoulder of a hatless man in a long coat. The onlooking women behind are in formal black Victorian dress.
Book cover, copyright Routledge 2020

Monday, 11 May 2020

HCNet online workshop

Registration open

#HCNet, The British Society of Criminology's Historical Criminology Network, is pleased to announce plans for a workshop which will be held online on 15 June 2020. Registration is open now and closes on Monday 1 June.

The workshop is designed to bring together scholars to initiate conversations around common interests or new directions for research in criminology, and follows an earlier call for ideas.

Interested participants are welcome irrespective of disciplinary or institutional affiliation; participants do not have to be existing members of the Historical Criminology Network or the British Society of Criminology.

Registration instructions, programme and information on each of the working groups is available to view and download below. All times refer to UK: GMT+1 (BST).


Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Public talk at Northumbria University

“13 yards off the big gate and 37 yards up the West Walls”: Crime scene investigation in mid-nineteenth-century Newcastle-upon-Tyne

#HCNet's last blogpost announced publication of an edited volume of essays, one of which will be represented at an upcoming public talk at the University of Northumbria.

Helen Rutherford and Clare Sandford-Couch will be sharing their research on the history of forensic investigation in Newcastle. They say:

We have recently published on role of the uniformed police in crime detection in connection with a murder case in Newcastle in 1863, and are currently researching the role of the police in gathering evidence in a murder case from 1838. Our research into nineteenth-century policing in Newcastle indicates a level of sophistication in policing and a methodical, almost scientific, approach to crime scene analysis far earlier than has previously been appreciated.”
The talk will be held on 1st April 2020 at 3pm in Room CCE1 410. 

Network members may also be interested in a public lecture at Northumbria University by Professor Carole McCartney on 25th March 2020 titled 'The Forensic Science Paradox'. For more information visit the Northumbria University Events pages.

Black and white photograph of a bespectacled middle-aged woman in profile sitting at a desk using tweezers to lift and examine bird feathers. On the paper in front of her are a magnifier and two bird specimens, several feathers, and stacks of folders and books behind her and at the edge of the desk. Her haircut, spectacle frames and suit date the image to circa 1960s.
Forensic Ornithologist Roxie Collie S. Laybourne (1912-2003) identifying bird feathers (c) Smithsonian Institution via Flickr.

Friday, 14 February 2020

Recent publication featuring #HCNet authors

Crime and the Construction of Forensic Objectivity from 1850

The biennial British Crime Historians' Symposium is coming up in September and it's always a great place to hear about current research in Historical Criminology and network with others. At a past BCHS conference, #HCNet member Alison Adam, Professor of Science Technology and Society at Sheffield Hallam University, sowed the seeds of an idea which came to fruition last month as a published book.

Crime and the Construction of Forensic Objectivity from 1850 features twelve chapters, including an excellent introduction by Professor Adam which draws out the significance of the historical development of forensic knowledge to a variety of contexts. Two centuries, six countries and multiple disciplines are represented in the edited collection which is published by Palgrave MacMillan as part of their Histories of Policing, Punishment and Justice series.

Some of the chapters develop ideas presented at past BCHS conferences, while others introduce new subjects. Several #HCNet members are among the chapter authors, including Angela Sutton-Vane who won the Clive Emsley Prize for the best postgraduate paper at BCHS 2018.

A list of the book chapters and authors is included below.

The CFP deadline for the next BCHS is 8th April 2020. More about the event here. 


Crime and the Construction of Forensic Objectivity from 1850: Introduction
Alison Adam

Forensic Representations: Photographic, Spatial, Dental and Mathematical

Bodies in the Bed: English Crime Scene Photographs as Documentary Images
Amy Helen Bell

Murder in Miniature: Reconstructing the Crime Scene in the English Courtroom
Alexa Neale

The Biggar Murder: ‘A Triumph for Forensic Odontology’
Alison Adam

Making Forensic Evaluations: Forensic Objectivity in the Swedish Criminal Justice System
Corinna Kruse

The Professional Development of Forensic Investigation

The Police Surgeon, Medico-Legal Networks and Criminal Investigation in Victorian Scotland
Kelly-Ann Couzens

‘13 Yards Off the Big Gate and 37 Yards Up the West Walls’. Crime Scene Investigation in Mid-nineteenth Century Newcastle upon Tyne
Clare Sandford-Couch, Helen Rutherford

The Construction of Forensic Knowledge in Victorian Yorkshire: Dr Thomas Scattergood and His Casebooks, 1856–1897
Laura M. Sellers, Katherine D. Watson

Reporting Violent Death: Networks of Expertise and the Scottish Post-mortem
Nicholas Duvall

The Media and Ethics in Constructing Forensic Objectivity

Detecting the Murderess: Newspaper Representations of Women Convicted of Murder in New York City, London, and Ireland, 1880–1914
Rian Sutton, Lynsey Black

‘Children’s Lies’: The Weimar Press as Psychological Expert in Child Sex Abuse Trials
Heather Wolffram

Murder Cases, Trunks and the Entanglement of Ethics: The Preservation and Display of Scenes of Crime Material
Angela Sutton-Vane

Book cover features a print of a line drawing of a historic courtroom scene, washed out in bright blue, bearing the series title "Palgrave Histories of Policing, Punishment and Justice", book title "Crime and the Construction of Forensic Objectivity from 1850", author "Edited by Alison Adam" and publisher "Palgrave Macmillan"
Book cover (c) Palgrave Macmillan

Thursday, 13 February 2020

The Uses of Historical Criminology: Guest posts

Replies to Churchill, Lawrence and Yeomans

Late last year, a thematic section of the journal Criminology & Criminal Justice was published on ‘The Uses of Historical Criminology: Explanation, Characterisation and Context’, featuring three articles by #HCNet members David Churchill, Paul Lawrence and Henry Yeomans. This was published along with a short post for the BSC blog, outlining the focus of the three articles and their contribution to developing work in historical criminology.

In two guest posts for this site, #HCNet members Tom Guiney and Vicky Nagy offer their reflections on the articles and on future directions for Historical Criminology more broadly:

Further replies to the articles are welcome. Simply comment below or email us to submit a guest post to share your thoughts on these, or any publications relevant to Historical Criminology.

Historical Criminology and Southern Criminology

by Victoria Nagy, University of Tasmania

In a recent issue of Criminology and Criminal Justice the possibilities of historical criminology were well articulated by Henry Yeomans, David Churchill and Paul Lawrence. To see three articles devoted to the building of theory in historical criminology is gratifying; it is a benefit for those who champion it, and it speaks to those criminologists who may not yet be sold on the benefits of an anchoring in history.

This blog post isn’t a review of the three pieces per se but an addition to the conversation about historical criminology started so well by the thematic section in C&CJ. This involves bringing the Global South into the discussion. The uniqueness to the Global South is what is often missing in criminology and from the theorisations of historical criminology in C&CJ’s thematic issue.

Recently Australian, New Zealand, South American, South East Asian and South African criminologists have been turning attention to the questions of where knowledge is created, who it benefits, and how relevant it is to those living in the Global South. This new theoretical branch of criminology is termed Southern Criminology and employs southern theory (Connell 2007) to consider the power relations embedded in the production of criminological knowledge and how traditional criminology ‘privileges theories, assumptions and methods based largely on empirical specificities of the Global North’ (Carrington, Hogg and Sozzo 2016, 1). The aim of Southern Criminology is not to fragment the field further into those who do southern theory versus those who do not; rather it makes the argument that there is a need for a transnational criminology that is inclusive of the Global South (Carrington et al., 2016; Hogg, Scott and Sozzo 2017; Travers, 2019). As Carrington et al (2016) put it, it is about de-colonising and democratising criminological knowledge.

This leads us back to the articles in C&CJ. The discussions in this thematic issue read as very Global Northern-centric. This in and of itself is not a problem, and it is not surprising seeing as the social sciences as a field are dominated by the Global North: most publishing houses, journals, and conferences that direct how we think about and do social science are located either in the UK or the US (Graham, Hale and Stephens 2011; Carrington, Hogg, Sozzo and Walters 2019). The way in which criminology (and arguably history) has operated has also tended to assume that a relocation of theory was all that was needed, especially with countries such as Australia and New Zealand. For example, well-meaning reviewers have oftentimes outed themselves as not being from either Australia or New Zealand when requesting the use of British laws or examples that have no relevance to either southern colony but are considered fundamental if one views criminology just from a northern perspective.  This does not mean that Australian and New Zealand criminologists are immune from this. There is still a tendency for the theories generated in the North to be picked up and transplanted here in the South thereby ignoring the history and context of the south while evidence is procured to support of these northern theories (Connell, 2014; Carrington et al., 2016).

The history of the Global South is closely interwoven with the Global North. Churchill (2019) rightly points out that our discussions of history as stadial are limiting to how we can do historical research in criminology and there is a perfect example of this in practice. For both Australia and New Zealand, indeed for all of the Global South, history is not in the past but here and now for the people who were colonised by those in the Global North. History has bled into the present through the over-representation of indigenous people in our criminal justice systems. Intergenerational trauma originating from colonisation by the British plays no small role in the poverty, oppression and violence experienced by Australian Aboriginal communities today (Funston and Herring 2016). Discussing the flow of history must go beyond a discussion of flow of multiple dimensions past and present and consider the flow from north to south as well.

For those of us working in historical criminology, Lawrence’s (2019) argument that the past can be used to explain the present in a long-term fashion and that historical data can be an immense support to criminologists today is one we’d all agree with. However, how or what parts of the past are used is important to consider. The violence that was used to subject the rightful owners of these lands in the Global South to their colonisers did not appear in official records. Only the most egregious example of colonist violence appears in our social or legal records, and once the frontier wars in Australia came (somewhat) to an end in the early twentieth century that violence continued in acts such as the forceable removal of Aboriginal children from their families which led to the Stolen Generation in Australia and the intergenerational trauma mentioned above. It is only with mapping the effect of the frontier wars in Australia, for instance, that we’re starting to see emerge the level of devastation wrought on this country by colonisers. Dispossession, bloodshed, and genocide of indigenous peoples cannot be so easily translated or understood by criminology if we do not accommodate it in our data collection and analysis (Carrington et al 2016).

And finally, Yeomans (2019) makes a strong case for the creation of a more “historically sensitive criminology” (p.456) that is three-dimensional, but that cannot be done without understanding that the history of these colonised nations in the Global South is not settled, nor does it manifest in a way seen in UK, US or other northern criminologies. Arguably the Global North where the criminological theories were developed at a time of peace is not reflective of the experiences of many in the Global South who were at the same time experiencing genocide and struggling for democratic freedoms from colonisers or dictators, and these criminological theories presuppose that crime is an urban phenomenon where disorganisation was changing the face of the urban landscape with rural locations as “naturally cohesive” spaces (Carrington et al. 2016).

So what does this mean? It doesn’t mean that Southern Criminology is better than other criminology theories for those of us in the Global South but rather that we need to ask what can be done to ensure that the emerging branch of historical criminology and discussions of its theory is democratic and decolonised.

Historical criminology, theory building and the importance of social ontology

A (short) reply to Yeomans, Churchill and Lawrence by Thomas Guiney, Oxford Brookes University

In a recent thematic edition of Criminology & Criminal Justice (September 2019), Henry Yeomans, David Churchill and Paul Lawrence embark upon a welcome theoretical ground-clearing exercise intended to both demarcate, and elaborate upon, the emerging field of historical criminology.

A detailed review of these contributions is beyond the scope of this blog post. However, in a follow-up comment piece for the British Society of Criminology, the authors helpfully distil their position down to three cross-cutting propositions with regards to the value of historical research in criminology:

First, that criminology is preoccupied with the present and new developments.
Second, that the past is frequently presented in overly reductive terms in order to establish the novelty of the present.
Third, that a long-term perspective can yield new insights on contemporary crime and justice.

When taken as a whole the authors express hope that the thematic edition will, ‘provide some foundations for more sustained engagement with historical approaches, perspectives and data in criminology, and thus help pave the way toward a more fully historical criminology.’

In this short reply, I want to suggest that while the authors make a very significant contribution to the first plank of this important project, they do not entirely succeed in their aspiration to promote a more fully historical criminology. 

By focusing almost exclusively on epistemological concerns – of definition, measurement and classification – the authors side-step a series of current debates in social ontology which animate, and give texture to, history, time and temporality in criminological perspective.

As I have argued elsewhere, the positions we occupy within the structure and agency debate, the relative merits of materialism and idealism or the extent to which a distinction can, and should, be made between the ‘appearance’ and ‘reality’ of things continue to do much of the conceptual heavy lifting within accounts of crime and criminal justice (Guiney, 2018).

By downplaying these areas of contestation in the pursuit of a cleaner inter-disciplinary exchange, my worry is that we risk inadvertently collapsing historical criminology into history. That we lose sight of what is distinctive and complimentary about the criminological scholarship.

This would be a misstep in my view. As Sewell has argued theory building ‘has a strikingly less central place in history than in the social science disciplines’ (Sewell, 2006: 3) and criminology – a ‘rendezvous discipline’ with a longstanding tradition of theoretical exchange and methodological innovation – can greatly enrich both the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ of crime and criminal justice. 

While we may agree that a ‘three-dimensional criminology’ should attend to the linkages between questions, forms and functions (Yeomans, 2019: 467), these analytical choices surely present a series of parallel ontological considerations. Agent-centred accounts of political elites and grass-roots activism may be well calibrated to the rhythm(s) of everyday life, but institutional norms and social structures often come into focus when societal change is located within a broader historical perspective.

There may be very good reasons to reject a ‘stadial’ view of history, which reduces social change to a series of transitions from one settled stage of human development to another (Churchill, 2019: 478). But does this not demand some critical engagement with the forces which mediate the continuities and dislocations of a pluralized conception of historical temporality? Should historical criminologists focus their analytical gaze upon the genius of those who seem able to bend history to their will, or seek out the invisible hand of shifting material interests?

If long time-frame analysis over several centuries is ‘the only robust means by which to evaluate the potential of the past to help explain the present’ (Lawrence, 2019: 494) does this not imply that historians have access to a deeper, or more complete view of reality, than those who live through such events? If so, what is the nature of this reality and what general laws govern the long sweep of history – a civilizing process? Historical materialism? A whiggish belief in progress?

These lines of enquiry go largely unexplored. Yes, history matters. But a confident, reflexive and fully historical criminology is also one that embraces theory building and the inherent contradictions of social ontology.

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

SSHA 2020

Call for Papers

The Social Science History Association’s 2020 conference will be held in Washington, DC on November 19-22, 2020.  The conference website can be found at:

The Program Committee is eager to receive proposals for panels or individual papers on all aspects of social science history. They are especially interested in research that makes imaginative use of historical data and tools from the social sciences to analyze how politics, society, and the economy interact over time.  The full call for papers can be found here (opens PDF).

The Crime, Justice and the Law Network has also issued a call for papers attached below. Their Network Chair Glenn Svedin hopes for an extension but please note that the submission deadline is currently this Sunday, 16 February 2020.



Thursday, 30 January 2020

Workshop invitation

Police, Justice, Crime and Punishment

Sergio Vaquero Martínez (Universidad Complutense de Madrid) and Foster Chamberlin (Boğaziçi University) invite #HCNet members to participate in a workshop they are organizing entitled “La administración de orden público en el mundo contemporáneo: policía, justicia, crimen y castigo” (The Administration of Public Order in the Contemporary World: Police, Justice, Crime and Punishment) at the 15th Conference of the Asociación de Historia Contemporánea (Association of Contemporary History) which will take place in Córdoba, Spain on 17-19 September 2020. The conference is entitled “La Historia habitada. Sujetos, procesos y retos de la Historia Contemporánea del siglo XXI" (Inhabited History: Subjects, Processes and Challenges of the Modern History of the 21st Century).

The working language of the session will be Spanish, although communications and interventions performed in the Spanish state’s co-official languages as well as in English, Portuguese, Italian or French are also welcome.

The workshop will be two-and-a-half hours in length. The deadline for proposals is January 31st, see the conference website for more information: If you have any questions about the content of the workshop, please contact the organisers using the links above.  

Slightly grainy black and white photograph of a stone bridge over a river. The still water dominates the image and reflects the arches and piers of the bridge which cuts across the centre of the image. There is a square stone tower centre left near the termination of the bridge and misty hills in the distance beyond the bridge.
'Moriska bron, Cordoba, 1910' Sigurd Curman, Tekniska museet via Flickr


Saturday, 18 January 2020

Conference: After Strangeways

The past, present and future of prisons

Thirty years to the day from the start of the protest at Strangeways Prison, a major conference is being held at Kings College's Strand Campus to discuss the past, present and future of prisons.

"The root causes of the protests lay in many years of unjust and abusive prison policies and practices that affected not just Strangeways, but the British prison system as a whole. The conference will consider the deep history of British prisons, using the Strangeways protests as a signal moment in a wider history of problematic and abusive institutions. 
Thirty years on, the dysfunctions and problems of the prison system that gave rise to the Strangeways protest are as pressing as ever. Indeed some would argue they are worse. Many prisons across Britain appear locked in a terminal spiral of decline and decay. The conference will take stock of the present state of prisons across the UK, and what current conditions say about British society and the way it treats some of the most vulnerable and marginalised groups. 
The conference will also look forward, at the potential futures of prisons. Do prisons protect prisoners and the wider society? If not, do we need to think differently about the meaning of protection and safety in the twenty-first century?Are prisons eternal and immutable institutions, destined forever to be a feature of British society? Is it possible to think about different futures, including ones where far fewer people are imprisoned, or where prisons are no longer a mainstay of our response to crime?"

For registration and a list of confirmed speakers go to the KCL event page.

A black and white photograph looking into a prison cell from outside, focused on the metal bars blurring the background which appears to be a bed, sidetable and possibly an occupant in the centre.
Prison Jail Cell, free photo by Ichigo121212 via Pixabay