Criminal violence in modern Britain

Wood, J. Carter (2006). Criminal violence in modern Britain. History Compass, 4(1) pp. 77–90.



Although studying the history of violence invites a broad methodological and topical diversity, three issues have predominated: the relationship between quantitative and qualitative methods, the notion of a "civilizing process," and the topic of gender. As "violence" refers to physical acts as well as to cultural understandings of those acts, coming to terms with its history has meant fusing quantitative, social-history emphases on social structure and behavior with qualitative, cultural approaches to understanding narrative and discourse. There is now a consensus that, over the long term, rates of interpersonal violence declined between the late Middle Ages and the middle of the twentieth century; nonetheless, over the same period violence played an ever more prominent role among people's social fears. Building upon these findings, some historians of violence assert that a "civilizing process"– involving new patterns of social interaction and psychological restraint – has affected both the social reality and cultural construction of violence. In these and other approaches, gender has emerged as the most prominent of a variety of central concerns, although its specific role in shaping the cultures and patterns of violence remains unclear and debated.

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