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Violence and Punishment: Civilizing the Body Through Time

ISBN: 978-0-7456-5348-8
248 pages
December 2012, Polity
Violence and Punishment: Civilizing the Body Through Time (0745653480) cover image

This innovative book tells the fascinating tale of the long histories of violence, punishment, and the human body, and how they are all connected. Taking the decline of violence and the transformation of punishment as its guiding themes, the book highlights key dynamics of historical and social change, and charts how a refinement and civilizing of manners, and new forms of celebration and festival, accompanied the decline of violence.

Pieter Spierenburg, a leading figure in historical criminology, skillfully extends his view over three continents, back to the middle ages and even beyond to the Stone Age. Ranging along the way from murder to etiquette, from social control to popular culture, from religion to death, and from honor to prisons, every chapter creatively uses the theories of Norbert Elias, while also engaging with the work of Foucault and Durkheim.

The scope and rigor of the analysis will strongly interest scholars of criminology, history, and sociology, while the accessible style and the intriguing stories on which the book builds will appeal to anyone interested in the history of violence and punishment in civilization.

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Introduction: Violence and Punishment within Civilizing Processes page 1

PART ONE Violence

1 Long-Term Trends in Homicide: Amsterdam, Fifteenth–Twentieth Centuries 19

2 Homicide and the Law in the Dutch Republic: A Peaceful Country? 39

3 Violence and Culture: Bloodshed in Two or Three Worlds 57

PART TWO Punishment and Social Control

4 Punishment, Power and History: Foucault and Elias 75

5 Monkey Butt’s Mate: On Informal Social Control, Standards of Violence and Notions of Privacy 92

6 "The Green, Green Grass of Home:" Refl ections on Capital Punishment and the Penal System in Europe and America from a Long-Term Perspective 104

PART THREE Civilizing the Body in Human History

7 Elites and Etiquette: Changing Standards of Personal Conduct in the Netherlands until 1800 129

8 Civilizing Celebrations: An Exploration of the Festive Universe 151

9 The Body’s End: Death and Paradise in Human History 163

Epilogue: A Personal Recollection of Norbert Elias and How I Became a Crime Historian 174

Notes 181

Archival Sources 200

Bibliography 201

Index 221

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PIETER SPIERENBURG is Professor of Historical Criminology at Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands. He is the author of A History of Murder: Personal Violence in Europe from the Middle Ages to the Present (Polity, 2008).
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  • A leading figure in historical criminology tells the fascinating tale of the long histories of violence, punishment, and the human body
  • Rich in coverage, the content extends over three continents, and back to the Middle Ages and even beyond to the Stone Age
  • Examines a range of topics, from murder to etiquette, from social control to popular culture, from religion to death, and from honor to prisons
  • Combines intriguing stories and examples with a creative use of key theorists such as Norbert Elias, Michel Foucault and Emile Durkheim
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Winner of the Choice award for Outstanding Academic Title

“Pieter Spierenburg is one of the world’s experts on the history of violent crime, and his writings are filled with fascinating facts and thought-provoking insights. The essays in this volume will inform and stimulate anyone interested in human violence and its history.”
Steven Pinker, Harvard University

“Pieter Spierenburg is our leading student of the civilizing process in punishment and society. Violence and Punishment ties together decades of research into the dynamics of violence and state formation; truly the definitive work on the topic.”
Jonathan Simon, University of California Berkeley

“With this strong new addition to his previous work, Pieter Spierenburg consolidates his position as Europe's leading historian of violence.”
Roger Lane, Haverford College

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