Showing posts with label Criminology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Criminology. Show all posts

15 March 2019

Cesare Beccaria - jurist and criminologist

Enlightened philosopher seen as father of criminal justice

Cesare Beccaria became part of the literary  circle in 18th century Milan
Cesare Beccaria became part of the literary
circle in 18th century Milan
The jurist and philosopher Cesare Beccaria, who is regarded as one of the greatest thinkers of the so-called Age of Enlightenment in the 18th century, and whose writings had a profound influence on justice systems all over the world, was born on this day in 1738 in Milan.

As the author of a treatise On Crimes and Punishments (1764), which was a ground-breaking work in the field of criminal law and the approach to punishing offenders, Beccaria is considered by many academics to be the father of criminal justice.

The treatise, which Beccaria compiled when he was only 26 years old, condemned the death penalty on the grounds that the state does not possess the right to take lives and declared torture to be a barbaric practice with no place in a civilised, measured society.

It outlined five principles for an effective system of criminal justice: that punishment should have had a preventive deterrent function as opposed to being retributive; that punishment should be proportionate to the crime committed; that the probability of punishment should be seen as a more effective deterrent than its severity; that the procedures of criminal convictions should be public; and that to be effective, punishment needed to be prompt.

The reception for his ideas was such that Beccaria, who was somewhat reserved in character, became an international celebrity. He was celebrated in particular in France, where On Crimes and Punishment was published in French in 1766 and was reprinted seven times in six months. English, German, Polish, Spanish, and Dutch translations followed and an American edition was published in 1777.

Beccaria was born in this palace in the Via Brera in central Milan
Beccaria was born in this palace in
the Via Brera in central Milan
Although in many countries the death penalty was not abolished until the late 20th century and is still practised in some parts of the world, in other aspects Beccaria’s treatise exerted significant influence on criminal-law reform throughout western Europe, as well as in Russia, Sweden and the former Habsburg Empire. It also informed legislation in several American states. Founding fathers Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were among those who endorsed his work.

Beccaria was brought up in Milan’s 18th century aristocracy. His father was the Marchese Gian Beccaria Bonesana. They lived in a palace in After attending the Jesuit college at Parma, Beccaria graduated in law from the University of Pavia in 1758.

His primary field of interest was mathematics and economics but he was encouraged by friends to join a literary society, through which be became acquainted with many French and British political philosophers. Much of its discussion focused on reforming the criminal justice system and Beccaria was particularly influenced by the French political philosopher Montesquieu, whose principal work was The Spirit of Laws. 

Nothing Beccaria achieved subsequently came close to the importance of On Crimes and Punishment, although he was to become a prominent economist. In 1768 he accepted the chair in public economy and commerce at the Palatine School in Milan, where his lectures formed the basis of another seminal work, published posthumously under the title Elementi di economia pubblica - Elements of Public Economy - in which he discussed ideas about the division of labour and the relations between food supply and population long before they became common currency.

Giuseppe Grandi's statue of Cesare Beccaria in Piazza Beccaria in Milan
Giuseppe Grandi's statue of Cesare
Beccaria in Piazza Beccaria in Milan
In 1771 he was appointed to the Supreme Economic Council of Milan, where he concerned himself with measures such as monetary reform, labour relations, and public education. A report written by Beccaria is said to have influenced the adoption of the metric system in France.

In his later years, Beccaria was distracted by health and family matters, including property disputes with his two brothers and sister. Although from a philosophical standpoint, he greeted the start of the French Revolution in 1789 with enthusiasm, his horror and dismay at the violence that ensued caused him much sadness and he became withdrawn. He died in 1974 at the age of only 56.

Beccaria was married twice and had five children. Through the first of them, Giulia, he was the grandfather of Alessandro Manzoni, the novelist whose most famous work I promessi sposi - The Betrothed - was one of the first Italian historical novels and is seen as a masterpiece of Italian literature.

Milan's Teatro alla Scala - commonly known as "La Scala" -
was built in the late 18th century
Travel tip:

The cultural golden age experienced by Italy in common with much of Europe in the 18th century included the construction of Milan’s most famous cultural landmark, the theatre and opera house Teatro alla Scala. Built to replace the Teatro Regio Ducale, which was destroyed in a fire, the theatre was designed by the neoclassical architect Giuseppe Piermarini. The initial design was rejected by Count Firmian, the governor of what was then Austrian Lombardy, but a second plan was accepted in 1776 by Empress Maria Theresa. The new theatre was built on the former location of the church of Santa Maria alla Scala, from which the theatre gets its name.

The Palatine School is one of the oldest and
most prestigious schools in Milan
Travel tip:

The Palazzo delle Scuole Palatine - the Palace of the Palatine School - is located in Piazza Mercanti, which was Milan’s medieval city centre. It was once the seat of the most prestigious higher schools in the city and many  notable Milanese scholars studied or taught there. The current building dates back to 1644, when it was rebuilt by the architect Carlo Buzzi to replace an older one that had been destroyed in a fire. The school was established in Piazza Mercanti under Giovanni Maria Visconti, the second Visconti Duke of Milan. The building is decorated with several monuments, including a plaque with an epigram by the Roman poet Ausonius celebrating Milan as the "New Rome" of the fourth century, a statue of Saint Augustine by sculptor Pietro Lasagna.

21 July 2018

Guglielmo Ferrero - journalist and historian

Nobel prize nominee who opposed Fascism

Guglielmo Ferrero is best known for his five-volume history of power and collapse of the Roman Empire
Guglielmo Ferrero is best known for his five-volume
history of power and collapse of the Roman Empire
The historian, journalist and novelist Guglielmo Ferrero, who was most famous for his five-volume opus The Greatness and Decline of Rome, was born on this day in 1871.

The son of a railway engineer, he was born just outside Naples at Portici but his family were from Piedmont and while not travelling he lived much of his adult life in Turin and Florence.

A liberal politically, he was vehemently opposed to any form of dictatorship and his opposition to Mussolini’s Fascists naturally landed him in trouble. He was a signatory to the writer Benedetto Croce's Anti-Fascist Manifesto and when all liberal intellectuals were told to leave Italy in 1925, he refused. Consequently he was placed under house arrest.

It was only after four years, following appeals by officials from the League of Nations and the personal intervention of the King of Belgium, that he was allowed to leave Italy to take up a professorship at the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva.

Ferrero’s earliest works were in the field of sociology and criminology, inspired by his friendship with Cesare Lombroso, sometimes called the ‘father of modern criminology’, who he met during his studies. Ferrero attended the universities of Pisa, Bologna and Turin. They collaborated on a book called The Female Offender about crime among women.

Cesare Lombroso, the criminologist who inspired Ferrero's early work
Cesare Lombroso, the criminologist who
inspired Ferrero's early work
In the course of his work with Lombroso, Ferrero was introduced to Gina Lombroso, Cesare’s daughter, and they subsequently married.

From 1891 to 1894 Ferrero traveled extensively in Europe, working in the libraries of London, Berlin, and Paris on a planned history of justice. As a result of his travels he produced a sociological study entitled Young Europe, in which he noted the differences in societal structure developing in the industrial north compared with the agricultural south of the continent.

It was after musing on how ascendant civilisations could become decadent that he turned his attention to Rome.

His defining work, The Greatness and Decline of Rome was translated into all the major European languages and was a popular success, even though it was scorned by classicists, who took exception to his use of contemporary comparisons and on his attempts at sociological analysis of Roman politics. They did not care either for his assessment of Julius Caesar, usually portrayed as a leader who brought order from chaos, as a major catalyst in the collapse of the Roman Republic.

For the next few years, Ferrero wrote political essays and a number of novels, before turning his attention to the French Revolution, which he analysed as an attempt to establish a new liberal order that unintentionally led to the first modern dictatorship.

Once invited by Theodore Roosevelt, the United States president, to visit him at the White House and to give a number of lectures, Ferraro was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature no fewer than 20 times in six years.

He spent a good deal of his time in his declining years at his villa in Strada in Chianti, in the Tuscan countryside, but was in Mont Pèlerin-sur-Vevey in Switzerland when he died in 1942.

The Royal Palace at Portici, near Naples
The Royal Palace at Portici, near Naples
Travel tip:

Portici, which lies at the foot of Mount Vesuvius on the Bay of Naples, about 8 km (5 miles) southeast of Naples, is a metropolitan suburb these days but essentially evolved as a port, rebuilt after it was destroyed in the eruption of Vesuvius in 1631. Its neighbour is Ercolano, where excavations revealed the city of Herculaneum, which had disappeared at the same time as Pompeii, following the eruption of 79AD.  Portici is famous for its Baroque royal palace, built as a grand residence by Charles III of Spain, King of Naples, between 1738 and 1742.

The church of San Cristoforo in Strada in Chianti
The church of San Cristoforo in Strada in Chianti
Travel tip:

Situated almost 300m (984ft) above sea level, Strada in Chianti is a small town that is increasingly favoured as a place to stay when visiting Florence, which is only 20km (12 miles) away to the north, barely half an hour by car and bus. Many Florentines escape to such places in the countryside during the summer, because the heat there is a little less oppressive. The town stages its annual fair in late September. The five parishes once competed in a horse race similar to the Palio di Siena, but they now vie for superiority in a series of games, including football and volleyball, over the course of a week.

More reading:

How Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall became the world's most famous history book

Cesare Lombroso, the first to encourage study of the criminal mind

Ernesto Teodoro Moneta, the historian who was both a soldier and a pacifist

Also on this day:

1914: The birth of Suso Cecchi D'Amico, the scriptwriter behind some of Italy's greatest movies

1948: The birth of Beppe Grillo, the comedian and founder of Italy's new political force, the Five Star Movement


6 November 2017

Cesare Lombroso – criminologist

Professor who first encouraged study of criminal mind

Cesare Lombroso changed the way the  world thought about criminals
Cesare Lombroso changed the way the
world thought about criminals
Cesare Lombroso, a university professor often referred to as ‘the father of criminology’ was born on this day in 1835 in Verona.

Although many of his views are no longer held to be correct, he was the first to establish the validity of scientific study of the criminal mind, paving the way for a generation of psychiatrists and psychologists to create a greater understanding of criminal behaviour.

In broad terms, Lombroso's theory was that criminals could be distinguished from law-abiding people by multiple physical characteristics, which he contended were throwbacks to primitive, even subhuman ancestors, which brought with them throwbacks to primitive behaviour that went against the rules and expectations of modern civilized society.

Through years of postmortem examinations and comparative studies of criminals, the mentally disturbed and normal non-criminal individuals, Lombroso formed the belief that ‘born criminals’ could be identified by such features as the angle of their forehead, the size of their ears, a lack of symmetry in the face or even arms of excessive length. He even argued that certain characteristics – he called them “stigmata” – were common to particular types of offenders.

He also believed that criminals had less sensitivity to pain, sharper vision, a lack of normal morals, were more vain, vindictive and cruel, although he did not suggest that there was no prospect of anyone born with “stigmata” leading a blameless life.

Lombroso at work at the University of Pavia
Lombroso at work at the University of Pavia
Indeed, he proposed reforms to the Italian penal system that included more humane and constructive treatment of convicts through the use of work programmes intended to make them more productive members of society.

Lombroso’s theories were initially widely influential in Europe and the United States, even though over time the idea that criminal behaviour had hereditary causes was largely rejected in favour of environmental factors, and the idea that someone could be born a criminal was established as implausible.

At the time, however, Lambroso was a respected figure. Born into a wealthy Jewish family in Verona, descended from a long line of rabbis, Lombroso studied at the universities of Padua, Vienna, and Paris.

From 1862 until 1876 he was a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pavia and of forensic medicine and hygiene (1876), psychiatry (1896) and criminal anthropology (1906) at the University of Turin. He was also the director of a mental asylum in Pesaro. 

The monument to Lombroso in his home town of Verona
The monument to Lombroso in his home town of Verona
He published books entitled L’uomo delinquente (The Criminal Man; 1876) and Le Crime, causes et remèdes (Crime, Its Causes and Remedies; 1899).

In addition to his work in the field of criminology, Lambroso devoted much time to studying his belief that genius was closely related to madness.  He wrote a book in 1889, The Man of Genius, in which he argued that artistic genius was a form of hereditary insanity and in which he claimed that, in his exploration of geniuses descending into madness, he could find only six men who exhibited no tendencies towards madness - Galileo, Da Vinci, Voltaire, Machiavelli, Michelangelo, and Darwin – but that Shakespeare, Plato, Aristotle, Mozart and Dante all displayed what he called "degenerate symptoms".

The Roman amphitheatre in Verona
The Roman amphitheatre in Verona
Travel tip:

Verona, Lombroso’s home town – under Austrian rule at the time of his birth – is now the third largest city in the northeast of Italy, with a population across its whole urban area of more than 700,000. Famous now for its wealth of tourist attractions, of which the Roman amphitheatre known the world over as L’Arena di Verona is just one, the city was also the setting for three plays by Shakespeare – one of those geniuses Lambroso believed sat on the cusp of madness.  Romeo and Juliet, The Two Gentlemen of Verona and The Taming of the Shrew all had Verona as their backdrop, although it is unknown whether the English playwright ever actually set foot in the city.  There is a monument to Cesare Lombroso in a park also named after him on the banks of the Adige river opposite the Cathedral of Santa Maria Matricolare.

The Courtyard of the Statues inside the University of Pavia
The Courtyard of the Statues inside the University of Pavia
Travel tip:

Situated only 35km (22 miles) from Milan, Pavia has the advantages of close proximity to all the services and opportunities on offer in northern Italy’s principal city yet itself offers a calmer way of life amid its ancient streets and elegant buildings, which remain as a legacy of its stature as the one-time capital of the Lombardy region. It is a city of rich cultural heritage with 19 museums, four public libraries, four cinemas and theatres, two schools of music arts and a music conservatory. Its university, home to 24,000 students, was founded in 1361 and now has 13 faculties.