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

By Richard F. Wetzell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO

FROM CRIMINAL ANTHROPOLOGY TO
CRIMINAL PSYCHOLOGY, 1880-1914

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.

____________________
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.

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