On Crimes and Punishments

On Crimes and Punishments

On Crimes and Punishments

On Crimes and Punishments


If at one time it seemed likely that the historical spirit (the spirit which strove to understand the classical jurisprudence of Rome and the Twelve Tables, and the Lex Salica, and law of all ages and climes) was fatalistic and enimical to reform, that time already lies in the past. . . . Now-a-days we may see the office of historical research as that of explaining, and therefore lightening, the pressure that the past must exercise upon the present, and the present upon the future. To-day we study the day before yesterday, in order that yesterday may not paralyze to-day, and to-day may not paralyze to-morrow.

Frederic W. Maitland


Historians of criminal law agree, almost without exception, that the "glory of having expelled the use of torture from every tribunal throughout Christendom" belongs primarily to Cesare Beccaria.

His treatise On Crimes and Punishments (Dei Delitti e delle Pene), newly translated here, is generally acknowledged to have had "more practical effect than any other treatise ever written in the long against barbarism in criminal law and procedure."

The work was originally published anonymously in Tuscany . . .

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