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HIS-260 Historical Reactions to Criminal and Deviant Behaviour

3 hours lecture, 3 credits

Once upon a time, a shipwrecked sailor washed up upon distant shores. He wondered about where he was. Then he saw a scaffold and gallows. "Thank god, "he exhaled, "I am in a civilized country." What is the relationship between civilization, crime and punishment? Why have dead bodies been the symbol of law at some times and places but not at others? Why did criminal trials begin? How can we account for the replacement of torture and the "bloody scaffold" with the rise of the penitentiary? This course will ask such questions as it provides an historical perspective on changing definitions of deviancy, societal reactions to violent or criminal activity, and public policies to counteract prohibited behaviour. The time span and geographical range will be vast; we will range from the Mesopotamia of 3,000 BCE to 21st-century North America. To provide focus, the curriculum will be organized around four intensive case studies: Crime and Punishment in the Ancient Near East and Mediterranean; Early Modern and Industrial Britain; American Justice from Colonial Times to Court T.V.; and Reactions to Crime and Deviance in 19th and 20th Century Canada and British Columbia.


  • C in one of English Studies 12, Provincial English 12, English First Peoples 12, ENG 096, or ENG 098; or C+ in ESL 092 and ESL 095; or English Assessment.

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