To confront the challenges criminologists face today and to satisfactorily critique the theories on which criminology is founded, we need to learn from the past. To do this we must give context to both theorist and theory. Written from a critical perspective, this book brings criminological theory to life. It presents the core theories of criminology as historical and cultural products and theorists as producers of culture located in particular places, writing in specific historical periods and situated in precise intellectual networks and philosophical controversies.

This book illustrates that theory does not arise ‘out of the blue’ and highlights the importance of understanding how and why ideas emerge at certain points in time, why they gained currency and the influence that they have had. It follows the trajectory of criminology from pre-Enlightenment society through to the present day and the proliferation of criminological thinking. It explores:

  • Setting the Stage for the Emergence of Criminology
  • Classicist Criminology: The Search for Justice, Equality and the Rational ‘Man’
  • The Positivist Revolution, Physiognomy, Phrenology and the Science of ‘Othering’
  • Chicago School of Sociology: An Explosion of Ideas
  • Developing a Sociological Criminology: Durkheim, Du Bois, Merton and Tannenbaum
  • Feminism: Redressing the Gender Imbalance
  • Confronting the Establishment: The Emergence of Critical Criminology
  • From Theoretical Innovations to Political Engagement

The Theoretical Foundations of Criminology provides an invaluable contribution to the growing conversation about criminology’s ‘origin story’ and the level that this is grounded in the idiosyncrasies of the North Atlantic world and its historical development. This book will be invaluable reading to students and academics engaged in studies of criminology and criminal justice.

chapter |4 pages

The theoretical foundations of criminology

Place, time and context

chapter Chapter 1|24 pages

Setting the stage for the emergence of criminology

chapter Chapter 2|54 pages

Classicist criminology

The search for justice, equality and the rational ‘man’

chapter Chapter 4|40 pages

Chicago School of Sociology

An explosion of ideas

chapter Chapter 5|47 pages

Developing a sociological criminology

Durkheim, Du Bois, Merton and Tannenbaum

chapter Chapter 6|48 pages


Redressing the gender imbalance

chapter Chapter 7|49 pages

Confronting the establishment

The emergence of critical criminology

chapter Chapter 8|23 pages

From theoretical innovations to political engagement