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Dödligt våld i Stockholm på 1500-, 1700- och 1900-talen
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Criminology.
2000 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
Homicide in Stockholm in the Sixteenth, Eighteenth and Twentieth Centuries (English)
Abstract [en]

The purpose of the thesis is to study homicide in a long-term perspective, focusing homicide in Stockholm from the sixteenth to the twentieth century. Though making reference to historical method with regard to the material studied, the thesis is specifically criminological in orientation. The thesis has two principle aims. The first of these involves an analysis of patterns in homicide over a time period of five centuries; how homicide changed over time (its form); and its changing prevalence within a given population group (its frequency). The second aim is directed at explaining the changing patterns observed.

The principle continuity which the research demonstrates is that people have tended to kill in much the same way over time, and often from the same motives and in the same places. Death typically results from male anger aroused in context where a provocation has been sustained by one or more parties to a particular dispute.

However, what is most apparent from the research findings are the discontinuities revealed in patterns of homicide over time. The decrease in the frequency of homicide between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries is without doubt the most significant of these. Particularly the rapid rate of decline during the seventeenth century and its relative stability thereafter. Tendencies towards the 'privatisation' of homicide also bear note here. From a pattern of homicide in the sixteenth century which was principally based upon men killing other men in public places, we appear to have moved by the twentieth century to a society in which homicide has become increasingly confined to the private sphere. Another important discontinuity which this research reveals, is what may be viewed as the 'rise and fall' of infanticide and suicidal murders, which were conceived as serious social issues in the eighteenth century, but which have more or less disappeared since then from the public agenda.

The one theory that appears to have the greatest explanatory potential is the theory of the civilising process, developed by Elias and more recently by theorists such as Spierenburg, Jarrick and Söderberg. The theory can account for the development of the external and internal conditions that would over time lead to a decrease in the expression of forms of lethal violence, such as the growth of alternative forms of conflict resolution, changing conceptions of honour and the growth of social norms that became over time more antagonistic to the expression of lethal forms of violence.

For theory in general, and criminological theory in particular, the thesis poses that homicide is an offence category whose changing nature is not explicable by reference to many of the existing approaches that might appear useful in explaining it. Many theories appear to predict a rise in homicide when in fact it fell over time, and quite dramatically over a very short time period. Even the approaches that could explain it are limited. This thesis tries to prove historical, sociological and criminological theory, but ends up testing their limits, thereby raising several new questions for criminological theory, as well as demonstrating the need for future research.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Kriminologiska institutionen, Stockholm universitet , 2000. , 295 p.
Avhandlingsserie / Kriminologiska institutionen, Stockholms universitet, ISSN 1404-1820 ; 4
Keyword [en]
homicide, infanticide, long-term perspective, theory, civilising process, gender
National Category
Social Sciences
Research subject
General Criminology
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-70708ISBN: 91-628-4545-4OAI: diva2:482265
Public defence
2000-12-08, 13:00
Available from: 2012-01-23 Created: 2012-01-23 Last updated: 2012-01-23Bibliographically approved

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