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Criminology. by Arthur MacDonald. With an Introduction by Dr. Cesare Lombroso. New York: Funk and Wagnalls Co. 1893. Pp. 416.


This book is noteworthy as the first comprehensive attempt to deal with criminology from the modern point of view which has yet reached us from the United States. It is divided into three parts. The first is a condensed summary of a few of the results reached by European criminal anthropologists, and does not pretend to any originality; it occupies 116 pages. The second part is entitled “Special Criminology,” and occupies 196 pages. The last part is a very full and useful bibliography of criminological literature, filling not less than 111 pages; in regard to this bibliography Mr. MacDonald acknowledges his indebtedness to the recent edition of Prof. Enrico Ferri's great work, “Sociologia Criminale.” Part I. is the least original part of the book, and also the least satisfactory. It is scrappy and uncritical. We should have been glad to see some of the statements of European criminologists discussed from a shrewd if sympathetic American point of view, but there is nothing here but reproduction. For example, it is surely time that we heard the last of the criminality of insectivorous plants, which (following various European writers) Mr. MacDonald here sets forth in full, without a word of criticism. The “criminality” of a plant which absorbs an insect must, one imagines, be about on a level with that of a man who absorbs a potato, and must be infinitely less than that of a man who goes out of his way to eat oxen and sheep. It is an abuse of language to apply the term “criminal” to any organized life-giving process common to a whole species. A number of the so-called “crimes” of animals are in no legitimate sense crimes. A truly criminal act must be antisocial and of such a nature that it could not possibly be performed by the whole species. There have been very few careful or competent observations of crime in animals; the best that are known to us are contained in a paper “On Degeneration and Criminality among Carrier-Pigeons,” in a recent number of the “Archivio di Psichiatria,” by Muccioli, who is one of the chief Italian authorities on these birds, and has made careful and special study of their habits. He has found that true criminality and degeneration (including various sexual perversions) are found among pigeons in a certain proportion of cases; there are some birds which this observer regards as genuine “instinctive criminals,” and it is interesting to note that he is obliged to eliminate these from his flocks, as they are unsatisfactory as carriers, being less active and intelligent. Mr. MacDonald remarks that among savages crime is the rule, and proceeds to quote a number of practices which he regards as illustrations of this statement. A very large number of these are, however, practised by the whole tribe, and are for the good of the whole tribe; they are not antisocial. There is no reason whatever to suppose that criminality is more common among the savage than among the civilized. Part II. is the most original and interesting portion of the work; it contains the detailed histories of six criminals whom Mr. MacDonald studied as thoroughly and scientifically as circumstances permitted. He was allowed to be locked up with some of these criminals whom it was considered dangerous to allow out of their cells, and he reproduces his interviews with them. This is a useful if troublesome method, as it brings out very clearly the psychological peculiarities of the subject. We may add that Mr. MacDonald has pursued the same methods in a still more elaborate and interesting manner in the study of some cases of morbid sexuality now appearing in the “Archives de l'Anthropologie Criminelle;” these studies are illustrated by portraits, while in the present volume there is a complete absence of illustrations. It is to be regretted that misprints are extremely numerous.

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Criminology. by Arthur MacDonald. With an Introduction by Dr. Cesare Lombroso. New York: Funk and Wagnalls Co. 1893. Pp. 416.

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