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What Are Your Favorite History Books About Crime and Punishment?

I am putting together a list of the top ten history books about crime and punishment, and I would like you to participate!

Nominations are open to any book that deals with crime history, regardless of place (in other words, it does not have to be limited to American crime history). Books should be historical in nature, so as great as Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood is, it really falls under the “True Crime” genre and not crime history.

Please list your nominations in the Comments section of this post, along with a brief explanation for why each one you list is your favorite. I will review the results and put together a top ten list next week.

Blog post follow up: Here is my list of the ten best history books about crime and punishment.


  1. Bob Barnes wrote:

    I would suggest Raphael Semmes’ Crime and Punishment in Early Maryland. It deals primarily with 17th century Maryland, and his main sources are the ‘Archives of Maryland.’ I can get the full bibliographic citation if you need it.

    Friday, December 2, 2011 at 11:53 am | Permalink
  2. For 19th Century American crime, I like: Duke, Thomas Samuel, _Celebrated Criminal Cases of America_, San Francisco, The James H. Barry company, 1910.

    Friday, December 2, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Permalink
  3. It’s already on my bookshelf! Great suggestion.

    Friday, December 2, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Permalink
  4. How about Bill James’ “Popular Crime”? It’s encyclopedic, entertaining, and even humorous–well, as humorous as it can be when discussing serious crime.

    Saturday, December 3, 2011 at 10:49 am | Permalink
  5. Eric wrote:

    Here’s a few suggestions –

    Herman Melville – Billy Budd

    Michel Foucault – Discipline and Punish

    Peter Linebaugh – The London Hanged

    Dan Cohen – Pillars of Salt, Monuments of Grace

    Saturday, December 3, 2011 at 11:43 pm | Permalink
  6. Mike wrote:

    Robert Whitaker — On the Laps of Gods, tells the story of Moore v. Dempsey

    T.J. English — The Savage City, about NYC in the 60s and 70s, racism, police violence, Black power

    Barbara Gelb — Varnished Brass, excellent to read after The Savage City, as it chronicles the response of NYC and the NYPD to revelations of corruption revealed by the Knapp Commission

    James Whitman — The Origins of Reasonable Doubt, grapple with this, forever

    Sunday, December 18, 2011 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

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