This is the third edition of Sandra Walklate's Understanding Criminology, which first appeared in 1998 as the third book in Open University Press' Crime and Justice series, and went to a second edition in 2003. The success of her book helped to establish the series as a key resource in universities teaching criminology or criminal justice, especially in the UK but increasingly also overseas. The aim of the series has been to produce short but intellectually challenging introductory texts in key areas of criminological debate, which will give undergraduates and graduates both a solid grounding in the relevant area and a taste to explore it further. Although aimed primarily at students new to the field, and written as far as possible in plain language, the books are not oversimplified. On the contrary, the authors set out to 'stretch' readers and to encourage them to approach criminological knowledge and theory in a critical and questioning frame of mind.
Professor Walklate's book, now substantially revised and updated, tackles the challenging subject of criminological theory, which is of course fundamental to any university course in criminology or criminal justice. No short text can hope to do justice to the huge body of theoretical writing which has influenced criminology over more than a century and, like all other authors who taken on this task, she has had to be highly selective in her coverage. Her approach, however, differs markedly from the standard approach of simply giving a chronological account of the history of the main landmarks in criminological thought. Rather, she takes as her central focus some of the key concerns which have driven both theory and research over the last 30 years. While giving due deference to the past, she shows that criminology has now become a very different (and far more complex) discipline, in which theorists have to take account of many new kinds of data and knowledge, fundamental changes in social structures and institutions, and major developments in other academic fields. The core questions she grapples with include the nature of the relationships between crime and gender, crime and social exclusion, crime and the (fast