Historical Patterns of Interpersonal Violence

Rosemary Gartner

in Criminology

ISBN: 9780195396607
Published online April 2011 | | DOI:
Historical Patterns of Interpersonal Violence

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A number of definitions of violence have been proposed by scholars, but probably the most widely accepted is something close to the following: the use of physical force intended to inflict injury on others. Throughout the 20th century, historians, political scientists, sociologists, and other scholars have had an enduring fascination with the history of war, state violence, and forms of collective violence, such as riots and rebellions. In contrast, academic interest in historical patterns of interpersonal violence dates from the late 1970s when mainly British historians began to study patterns of homicide and other serious forms of interpersonal violence from the medieval period onward. Since then, research on the nature of, trends in, and patterns of interpersonal violence in a wide range of times and places has flourished. Some of this research is concerned with tracing short- and long-term trends in violence and explaining why the form and frequency of violence vary from one time period to the next. Here the focus is on understanding the social, economic, cultural, demographic, and political forces that shape violence. Other scholars see historical studies of violence as a lens through which to examine the everyday lives of elites and nonelites, including their interpersonal relations and conflicts, habits and manners, sources of livelihood, and leisure activities. Here the focus is on using violence as a means to illuminate other aspects of social life at different points in history. Finally, another group of scholars study interpersonal violence as a way to reveal broader conflicts and relations between the sexes, different ethnic and racial groups, and different social classes in different times and places. Regardless of the focus, all historical studies of violence face such issues as how to define and measure interpersonal violence, how to evaluate sources of information on it, and how to distinguish it from other types of violence. This entry highlights recent and some of the classic research on historical patterns in violence up to the early 20th century. While many of these studies discuss legal and criminal justice responses to violence, popular attitudes toward violence, and representations of violence in different historical eras, work that focuses solely on these topics is not discussed in this entry.

Article.  14906 words. 

Subjects: Criminology and Criminal Justice ; Criminal Justice ; Criminology

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