Those who are even slightly familiar with the large and rich archives of criminological study appreciate the fact that a single volume of average size cannot compress within its pages all that is important to say about crime. The present work, therefore, has acted selectively on the material, data, and contributions available for the study of criminal behavior, in accordance with what appeared to the author to give the best insight into the nature, variation, treatment, and prevention of crime.
In view of the lack of verified knowledge, a dogmatic, authoritarian treatise on criminology is wholly unwarranted and quite unbecoming. Instead, a general work on criminology needs to recognize the severe shortcomings of extant knowledge and to contain an abundance of tentative and qualified statements.
The absence of anything approaching scientific positivism in the field of criminological study leads one to embrace a comparative point of view, i.e., to consider the variations, in time and place, of criminal behavior itself and of the methods used to combat it. There is good reason to contend that criminal behavior can be most effectively studied by comparative methods and that criminology as an academic or professional course needs to be taught comparatively.
Although the author's indebtedness to many authorities, authors, publishers, and agencies is recognized in footnotes, he wishes to take this opportunity to express his deep gratitude for their assistance. In particular, he is greatly indebted to Margaret Adelaide Jackson for typing the manuscript, checking references, and making the index of names.
WALTER C. RECKLESS.
Nashville, Tenn., January, 1940.