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The History of Crime


Crime has always been supposed to be an action that breaks the rule and order of social life, harms and threatens the members of society. Even though governments of different countries try to put an end to crime on national and international levels, it is useless to argue with the fact that crime is a constant element of social life (Hibbert 16). Subsequently, there is no way to get rid of this element fully, but it is possible to find out tendencies of crime development throughout the history. Analysis of this information will help to understand the nature of crime. With this understanding, it will be much easier to understand how to avoid high rate of crime in society. Moreover, analyzing crime history helps to understand human’s psychology. Because of these reasons, the history of crime has been chosen as a topic for the final project. The main aim of this project is to compare crime tendencies in the 20th and 21st centuries, find out differences and similarities, and analyze the reasons and factors that affect changes in crime during the mentioned period.


Crimes in the 20th Century

Talking about crimes in the 20th and 21st centuries, one should outline main factors that had influenced it. They were economy, government, war, and beliefs (Hibbert 56).

The economic situation in the whole world was hardly stable. The rate of unemployment was high, and many things simply became less available for people. Social inequality made people seriously irritated, aggressive, and angry (Block 48).
Secondly, the position of national governments played not the last role. Society that entered difficult economic and financial period hoped for the government as a body that could respond to the crisis appropriately. However, attempts of the governments failed to be successful. Not only were people poor but they also had no confidence that they could rely on their states as warrantors of their well-being. The next factor was also important while considering the criminal situation of the 20th century. The 20th century was the period of two World Wars that affected economic, cultural, religious, and all other spheres of people’s life. The value of life that had always been announced as one of the highest and most important ones was now neglected. Many countries were in chaos. Some people felt the possibility to avoid punishment for crimes during wartime. Such a high level of pressure resulted in many cases when people suffered from attacks of violence and aggression. Moreover, some people accepted crime as a norm of life (Cullen and Agnew 24).

Beliefs have also influenced the model of person’s behavior. People believed in religion as a strong regulator of social relations. However, some beliefs led to the conflicts between religious groups. Unfortunately, some people were so turned to the dominant role of their religious beliefs that they were ready for violence to ‘protect’ their religion. There was also the other side. Religion had a strong authority for many people and they believed that following some rules would help them to avoid injustice. However, many people devoted to religion could not explain world wars from religious point of view and lost their belief. Subsequently, these people also lost any borders and frames for their behavior, as their understanding of ‘evil’ and ‘good’ was built on religious beliefs that had been ruined. In fact, that was a rather dangerous group of people, as their system of worldviews and values was not stable.

Typical Crimes of the 20th Century

For the better and clearer understanding of crime tendencies in the 20th century, it is better to look at the most famous and widespread crimes of that time. Among them were the theft of world-famous masterpieces (such as Mona Lisa in 1911), numerous bank and jewelry shop robberies, and war crimes.

As it turns out from the type of the most widespread crimes of the 20th century, the main aim of the crimes was to get material profit (Calhoun 1). With the development of banking system throughout the world, banks became a target of many robberies as a source of a huge amount of money. As technologic progress was not as significant as nowadays, the plot of a bank robbery was rather primitive: usually people with guns stole money. During and after wars, a common crime was the destruction or theft of famous artists’ masterpieces. People who committed this type of crime were differently motivated. Some individuals were clear examples of social control theory in action, some of them were eager to get easy money, while others tried to get back the masterpieces that had been stolen from their countries during world wars.

Crimes in the 21st Century

However, everything changes. The 21st century brought its changes in the development of crime history too. Economy, government, beliefs, and wars are still important factors that influence the types of crimes. Nevertheless, currently, two factors are even more important. They are globalization process and technological breakthrough. Globalization is a process of international cooperation in different spheres, which strengthens relations and co-dependence of countries on each other. This factor influenced crime in two aspects. First, it has become easier for criminals to commit crimes abroad and come from one place to another, which makes it more difficult to imprison them.

Typical Crimes of the 21st Century

The destruction of cultural borders has led to a conflict of worldviews and the desire of some religious groups to prevail over others. That is why the terrorism of Muslims who claim that the reason of their actions is religious background has become one of the most dangerous, unpredictable, and serious types of crime in the 21st century.

Technological progress has also become a source for new crimes. With the help of computers and the Internet, criminals have the possibility to steal money, obtain secret materials, and break the computer systems of other users within a few minutes. This type of crime is known as a cyber-crime. Governmental structures adopt measures to create effective ways of protection from cyber-crimes, but hackers usually outmatch or evade all the innovations.

Analysis of Crime History as a Tool for Ensuring Social Safety and Well-Being

When the general situation and tendency in development of crime in the 20th and the 21st centuries is clear, it is necessary to analyze specific features of crime development during this period. The common feature is that criminal rate and readiness of people to commit a crime closely depend on the level of economic stability in society. That actually means that each human being has basic needs such as food, clothes, place for living, etc. When the level of income is so low that he or she is not able to satisfy these basic needs and the country is on the verge of default, bankruptcy or default, the possibility of committing a crime by people in such a situation increases significantly (Anderson 76). Therefore, the first important point, which is clear from crime history, is that material well-being is important for social stability. Doubtlessly, it is impossible to avoid economic disasters at all, but it is possible for the state to be ready for these difficult situations and know how to help people to avoid taking such a desperate step as committing a crime. Secondly, it is always important to take into account that during all the mentioned historic periods, the fact of social control played a role in committing of crimes. It means that the existence of strong control of the state, social order, and responsibility have positive impact on consciousness of people, which prevents crimes in society.

However, some aspects make crimes of the 20th century different from the crimes of the 21st century. An interesting observation is that the creation of something new always results in the creation of the way to use this new thing for illegal affairs (Bommersbach 39). The 21st century has showed that computers, the Internet, and many other technologies have two sides. On the one hand, they help to save a huge amount of time and make working process much easier. On the other hand, all these technologies are under constant risk of being an object of cyber-crime. This fact from a history of crime gives an understanding that all “know-how” things in society may be always easily used as the tools of crime. That is why it is always important to predict not only benefits of some inventions but also possible risks. Such an approach may help to create such technological innovations that will be almost impossible or, at least, much more difficult to use for crimes.


Counterviews on the Role of History of Crime

However, some scientists do not recognize the history of crime as a powerful tool for finding out tendencies of crime development. They claim that crime is a very individual action that depends on factors of each specific situation. Moreover, they are of the view that it is rather difficult to determine features typical for exact historical period. In contrast to this argument, it is necessary to say that the nation that forgets its history repeats it twice. It is always important to know and analyze the failures of the ancestors in order not to repeat their fate.


In conclusion, it is necessary to emphasize that criminal history is also a part of the world history, which reflects important processes in society and its cultural, intellectual, technological, economic, scientific, and educational development. The analysis of crime history gives better understanding of person’s psychology, factors, that influence crime rate. Moreover, it gives a possibility not only to find out the preconditions of crimes but also the chance to develop measures for preventing of these crimes. That is why the history of crime is a subject worth of deep studying and analyzing.

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