Inventing the Criminal: A History of German Criminology, 1880-1945

By Richard F. Wetzell | Go to book overview
Save to active project



Although Liszt and other criminal jurists committed to penal reform stressed the importance of criminological research, they did not themselves engage in it. This task was mainly undertaken by German medical doctors, especially psychiatrists. To be sure, criminal statisticians, like Oettingen, Mayr, and a handful of others, continued their work in criminal statistics. On the whole, however, German social scientists, including those in the newly emerging discipline of sociology, showed remarkably little interest in criminological questions. By contrast, the German medical community developed considerable interest in criminological questions in the course of the 1880s and 1890s for at least two reasons. First, Lombroso's theory of the born criminal confronted the German medical profession with a biological theory of crime to which it felt compelled to respond. Second, the German doctors' willingness to address criminological questions was facilitated by their long-standing contact with the criminal justice system as forensic psychiatrists in the courts and prison doctors in the correctional system. Before examining their reception of Lombroso, I shall therefore briefly discuss the state of German forensic psychiatry and the role of doctors in German prisons. 1.

Germany's physical anthropologists had little use for Lombroso. Rudolf Virchow publicly attacked Lombroso and dismissed his claims about the physical characteristics of the born criminal as false. See Virchow, "Über Criminalanthropologie," Correspondenz-Blatt der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Anthropologie, Ethnologie und Urgeschichte 27 (1896): 157-62; Cesare Lombroso, "Virchow und die Kriminalanthropologie," Die Zukunft 16 (29 August 1896): 391-96; Benoit Massin, "From Virchow to Fischer: Physical Anthropology and `Modern Race Theories' in Wilhelmine Germany," in Volksgeist as Method and Ethic: Essays on Boasian Ethnography and the German Anthropological Tradition, ed. George Stocking (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1996), 139.

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Inventing the Criminal: A History of German Criminology, 1880-1945


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 348

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?