The History of Criminology And Its Schools Of Thought


Criminology has evolved over centuries of practice and thought, it is an extremely diverse field, and contrary to popular belief, its scope is not limited to police officers, criminal justice and public offenders. It has a wide breadth that is grounded in philosophy. People have been attempting to understand the nature of crime for many years, even before prisons were developed and the worldwide penal system was established, people from a range of different backgrounds were interested in what it is that turns a person into a criminal. Is it innate? Is it a choice? Can you tell from an individual’s facial features or structure that they will be criminally deviant?

Criminology has since developed into a field of study that relies on the combined works of psychologists, sociologists, lawyers, psychiatrists, and philosophers. Through the use of correlative data and statistics physical trends have been explained by linking them to psychological upbringing, biology, and demographics. Society is better able to understand crime and the nature of the criminal by the theories that criminologists have developed.

Due to the diverse nature of the field a variety of different schools of thought have shaped the progression of criminology.

During its rich academic history, criminology has changed a number of different times in order to make room for different thinking patterns. The majority of theories are still based on some of the old schools of thought.

The Classical School

The classical thinkers believe that crime is due to the interest that mankind has in itself. Their assertion was that having an understanding of human behavior, would lead to being able to control and understand criminal tendencies. They felt that if an individual chose if they were going to rob a bank or not, or if they were going to kill someone, they made that choice because they have also been trained not to make such decisions. The classical school of thought is dependent upon punitive systems that are responsible for promoting rational inhibition of criminal thought.
The Positivist School

The positivist school of thought developed as a result of a critique of the classical school. They used the scientific method as well as hard empiricism as a way of explaining criminal behavior. The theories of the classical school were gradually replaced by an expressive pursuit of explaining human tendencies through hard law; this process took place as the scientific momentum of quantitative analysis became more widespread. The positivist school used three distinct methods to determine the nature of a criminal; psychological precedents, social demographics, and by biology.

The Chicago School

The Chicago school of thought places emphasis on criminology within an urban environment. When it first developed it was primarily based on sociology, its aim was to make a connection between the natural environment of the individual and the decisions that they make. From a criminal standpoint, such decisions have an effect on their communities as well as themselves. This school of thought is acclaimed for its ethnographic work, which was carefully combined with scholarly theory and quantitative methods to create regular hypotheses that continue to hold authority worldwide.