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Unit information: Crime and Punishment (Level I Lecture Response Unit) in 2016/17

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Unit name Crime and Punishment (Level I Lecture Response Unit)
Unit code HIST20046
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Will Pooley
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of History (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts


How was crime changing in the heyday of burglary and bank robbing, poisoning and pick pocketing? Between 1789 and 1939, European criminal justice underwent a series of revolutions, as new law codes changed the very meaning of crime and the value and scope of punishment. This course will focus on France, but draw on international comparisons to explore key themes, such as culpability, capital punishment, fraud, theft, suicide, murder, political crime, and gender. The lectures will cover infamous cases such as the execution of the King and Queen (1793), the trials of the Communards (1871), Alfred Dreyfus’s trial for treason (1894), and the dramatic case of Violette Nozières, the young girl who murdered her own parents in Paris (1933).

Armed with a new criminal law code (1791) and a growing network of police and police spies, how did the French justice system evolve to deal with new crimes? With the rise of cheap newspapers, how did the public engage in new ways with the criminals at the heart of modern society?

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will have developed: (1) a broad understanding of the development of crime, detection, prosecution and punishment in the modern world; (2) the ability to analyse and generalise about how and why criminal activity, the recording and perceptions of crime, and efforts to prevent it have changed over time ; (3) the ability to select pertinent evidence/data in order to illustrate/demonstrate more general issues and arguments; (4) the ability to derive benefit from, and contribute effectively to, large group discussion; (5) the ability to identify a particular academic interpretation, evaluate it critically, and form an individual viewpoint.

Teaching details

1 x 2-hour interactive lecture per week.

Assessment Details

One summative coursework essay of 3000 words (50%) and one unseen examination of two hours comprising 2 questions out of 8 (50%). Both elements will assess ILOs 1-3, and 5.

Reading and References

Becker, Peter and Richard Wetzell (eds.). Criminals and Their Scientists: The History of Criminology in International Perspective.

Emsley, Clive. Crime, Police, and Penal Policy: European Experiences, 1750-1940.

Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: the Birth of the Prison.

Harris, Ruth. Murders and Madness: Medicine, Law, and Society in the Fin de Siècle.

Maza, Sara. Violette Nozières: A Story of Murder in 1930s Paris.

Merriman, John. Police Stories: Building the French State, 1815-51.