Comparative Historical Analysis in Criminology and Criminal Justice

Mathieu Deflem
Google Scholar | ResearchGate | ORCID

This is a copy of a chapter published in The Routledge Handbook of Qualitative Criminology, edited by Heith Copes and J. Mitchell Miller. London: Routledge, 2015.

Also available as PDF file

Please cite as: Deflem, Mathieu. 2015. "Comparative Historical Analysis in Criminology and Criminal Justice." Pp. 63-73 in The Routledge Handbook of Qualitative Criminology, edited by Heith Copes and J. Mitchell Miller. London: Routledge.

Qualitative methodologies that explore issues of a comparative and/or historical nature have been used extensively in criminology and criminal justice. The impression that all, let alone the best research in these and other fields of social science is of a quantitative nature geared at the analysis of numerically expressed social phenomena cannot be empirically supported. Of course, it is true that the predominance and popularity of quantitative methods in social research is a statistically observable fact. Also, most research in criminology and criminal justice that analyzes crime (as a legal category) and/or deviance (as an unspecified norm violation) and various dimensions of its control from an explicitly historical or comparative viewpoint tends to focus less on technical matters of methodology and more on the findings from research. Thus, one of the main values of a comparative historical analysis is often readily presented by virtue of its contribution to knowledge from the viewpoint of uncovering aspects of social life that are either spatially and/or historically remote from a given localized and/or contemporary setting.

Comparative historical analysis is nonetheless not to be described as a specific subject matter in the social sciences comparable to thematic specialties focused on certain social institutions. By example, historical criminology is not merely a criminology of the past and cannot be demarcated from the broader field of criminology in the same manner as the criminology of juvenile delinquency constitutes one specialty among others. Instead, comparative historical analysis is a methodology that can either be specifically applied to contrast cases across space and time or that are implicitly implied in research of singular cases. There are distinct methodological issues involved with comparative historical analysis that involve various technical challenges and that should be resolutely addressed on the basis of important epistemological considerations. Also, methodology in the case of comparative historical analysis is closely related to fundamental theoretical questions on the manner in which to study society and its components. Comparative historical analysis is thus distinctly framed in the process of science from theory over epistemology and methodology to empirical research.

This chapter reviews the main principles and achievements of comparative historical methodology in criminology and criminal justice. It first addresses the basic characteristics of this particular qualitative methodology in relation to basic questions and problems in research design. Next, an overview is presented of some of the areas of research in which the methodology has been applied with respect to the criminological study of crime and/or deviance, followed by a similar review in the study of criminal justice systems, policing, and punishment.

The Methodology of Comparative Historical Analysis

From a purely technical viewpoint, the methodology of comparative historical analysis appears in a straightforward manner to refer to those social-science investigations that extend localized and/or cross-sectional investigations beyond the confined limits of the researcher’s immediate setting in space and time. Comparative historical analysis is in this sense primarily involved with broadening the scope of research to other social settings. However, comparative historical analysis also involves important epistemological questions regarding the relation between theory and research as well as the appropriate theoretical framework with which social phenomena are to be studied. These issues are reflected in the historical development of the methodology itself and its appropriation by social scientists in various specialty areas.

History and Development

The social sciences emanated from the historical trend in social philosophy that gradually evolved from the Enlightenment onwards. Classical scholars in social philosophy, such as Alexis de Tocqueville, Henry Maine and Karl Marx, and in sociology, especially Emile Durkheim and Max Weber, developed their work in an explicit comparative and/or historical manner (Deflem and Dove 2013). Most clearly, Durkheim argued that the comparative method is the only one suitable for sociological inquiry and that comparative sociology is synonymous with all sociology inasmuch as it is more than merely descriptive (Durkheim 1895). What Durkheim, Weber, and other classical scholars of social science also typically favored were comparative historical analyses that were based on cases developed on the basis of a qualitative approach, rather than quantitative studies of numerically expressed social conditions and events. The classics of social thought were skeptical of the value of the statistical sciences as they were seen as merely descriptive in orientation and lacking in theoretical foundation (Deflem 1997).

Yet, over the course of the development of the social sciences and, especially, the differentiation of various specialized disciplines such as sociology, criminology, and criminal justice, the methodology of comparative and historical analysis has not always stood on equal footing with other methods. To some extent, this relative neglect of comparative historical analysis was a result of a trend towards technically accomplished and typically quantitative empirical studies of the conditions of modernity. Moreover, the comparative study of society on the basis of case studies, especially ethnographic studies of remote cultures, has historically largely been appropriated by anthropology, while the discipline of history could lay claim to expertise on historical studies. Much of modern sociology and related research in criminology and criminal justice, in turn, was predominantly defined by perspectives that engaged in sophisticated quantitative analyses of large data sets. The development of comparative historical analysis in criminology and criminal justice therefore had to wait for, and then build on, a gradual overcoming of these disciplinary boundaries in theoretical and methodological respects.

In the modern social sciences, the turn towards comparative historical analysis was to a large extent enabled by the introduction of conflict-theoretical ideas (Adams, Clemens, and Orloff 2005; Deflem and Dove 2013). In sociology this turn was particularly influenced by the neo-Marxist wave that gradually invaded the discipline from the 1970s onwards. The central classical contribution upon which this redirection was founded was the historical materialism of Karl Marx. In criminology and criminal justice, this development partly also benefitted from the work of Michel Foucault (1977) and other conflict perspectives that more explicitly paid attention to the study of crime and crime control (Garland 1990). It is to be noted that the historical fact of this appropriation of comparative and historical analysis in conflict-oriented scholarship is not a theoretical nor a methodological necessity. Virtually all the classical scholars of social science were deeply involved in comparative and historical work, and today indeed multiple theoretical perspectives are represented in the broad domain of the methodology (Mahoney and Rueschemeyer 2003).

Principles and Variations

As with all methods of social research, comparative historical analysis can be demarcated by the differentiation between quantitative and qualitative perspectives. Among the quantitative approaches in comparative historical analysis, by example, is the method of content analysis that is concerned with a numerical examination of documents on the basis of a random sampling of units of analysis in various verbally expressed sources, including both written documents and oral histories (Krippendorf 1980). Such a quantitative analysis can, for example, be used to count how many times a certain expression of a crime label is mentioned in a sample of popular media published in a given locale or over the course of a particular time period. Although the terminology is in the literature not always carefully maintained, the contrasting approach of document analysis involves a qualitative or in-depth examination of sources to develop a case.

While quantitative methods such as content analysis are typically geared at the explanatory testing of hypotheses in a pre-structured research, qualitative strategies of comparative historical analysis are oriented at a hermeneutic understanding of cases. With such a qualitative strategy, the researcher remains more open, on the basis of certain sensitizing concepts, to explore and develop more specific theories during, rather than in advance of, the research enterprise itself. As a consequence of the qualitative approach in comparative historical analysis, also, relevant studies rely on narrative rather than numbers in reporting research findings.

Beyond these technical characteristics, a central epistemological problem in comparative historical analysis involves the distinction between the ideographic approach of the study of unique events (typical for anthropology and history), on the one hand, and the nomothetic perspective of the investigation of general trends (often relied upon in sociology and related social sciences), on the other (Lange 2013). The important consideration in this respect is the insight that the social world does not present itself in the form of data that have particular characteristics, but that social phenomena are studied within a conceptual and theoretical framework that allows for multiple but variably grounded methodological choices within which certain data types are appropriate for analysis. Within certain perspectives, in other words, the technical advantages of a particular method of investigation are not the determining factor in making strategic choices for research.

The advantages of comparative historical analysis are therefore not primarily technical but instead pertain to a more fundamental insights on the value of the adopted perspective and its research findings. Comparative research is conducted across societies, not merely between categories of a variable, while historical inquiry pertains to different socially identifiable eras rather than a mere longitudinal development. Thus, comparative studies of social phenomena in discrete locales reveal differences and similarities across societies, especially in comparison to the social context of the researcher and the predominant localization of most research. A comparative study is thus by definition also relevant to what is known about local conditions. A historical approach in criminology and criminal justice research, likewise, is not merely a study of the past as much as a study of the history of an existing society. Both geographically dispersed and historically differentiated societies are both at once disconnected and related through comparative historical analysis.

Techniques of Inquiry

The methodology of comparative historical analysis is guided by specific considerations related to data collection and analysis (Lange 2013). Historical methods involve inquiries that can evidently only be conducted by examining the traces of history that are still available today. Similarly, comparative data need to be available and located as reflections of events that have taken place in a distinct society. In the case of comparative data, language issues are of special concern, although some form of interpretation and translation will also be involved in the case of historical data analysis.

Sources in comparative and historical analysis can be retrieved from a variety of primary and secondary documents located in archives, libraries, and online depositories. Primary documents are direct manifestations of the phenomena that are studies, such as arrest records as a source of police behavior. Secondary sources are narratives about the phenomena under investigation, such as a newspaper account about a criminal event. For both types of sources, special consideration needs to go to availability and accessibility of sources and the inevitable limitations of research when these conditions face obstacles.

The procedure of collecting data in comparative and historical research involves the following four components (Pitt 1972; Lange 2013):

1) Identification and Selection: Sources relevant to a particular study have to be identified and gathered, including a wide variety of possible documents, such as official public records from government agencies, private or non-official documents produced by a range of cultural groups, media reports from newspapers, magazine, television and radio broadcasts, and a wide variety of materials available on the internet. Traditional problems researching such sources involve a lack of data or an inability to collect available data because of practical or formal restrictions such as the cost of data collection and the classification of government documents. In the contemporary age of the information era, particular identification and selection problems may be presented because of an overabundance, rather than a shortage, of data, while issues concerning the validity of data have far from disappeared.

2) Registration and Classification: Sources used in a comparative historical study are recorded and classified in a manner that is useful for research needs. Thus, inherent characteristics of the documents themselves are usually not used as a standard for classification as are considerations related to the research questions. By example, documents pertaining to policing strategies in multiple countries across time will be differently classified depending on whether the research is primarily historical or comparative. Though ultimately a practical matter, great care in this step of the research activity will prevent difficulties of a more profound nature later on in the research process.

3) Critique and Confrontation: The researcher needs to secure that the sources under investigation are accurate in reflecting social realities that by definition are remote in space or time. Among the most useful strategies that can be employed in this respect is for the researcher to locate and compare multiple sources on one event or process, a technique referred to as data triangulation (Golafshani 2003). Linguistic skills and historical background knowledge will also increase the power of a research to make correct inferences about social phenomena discussed and portrayed in sources. This research requirement relates to the validity of a study in comparative historical analysis to accurately describe and portray the topic of investigation.

4) Analysis: As both quantitative and qualitative approaches can applied in comparative historical research, the whole range of social research techniques of analysis is available. Restricted to a qualitative approach, comparative historical analysis will be geared towards an interpretive understanding that is situated in an inductive model oriented at theory construction. Whereas a structured approach follows a so-called ‘wheel-of-science’ model that moves deductively from theory to testable proposition and inductively from research findings back to theory, a qualitative approach more freely and repeatedly rotates through the research cycle (Bulmer 1984). The relatively unstructured nature of this qualitative approach poses special problems in terms of reliability as repeated investigations of a topic under investigation might produce inconsistent results because of changes in the manner in which data are measured and analyzed. A clear specification of the techniques used in comparative historical analysis and a well-written narrative in reporting the study findings will contribute to reliability.

Research Objectives

Comparative historical methodology can be used for various research objectives, ranging from an archeological excavation of hitherto unknown realities removed in space or time, rich descriptions of historical and comparative cases of crime, deviance and criminal justice, as well as analyses of the dynamics of relevant structures and processes. The specification of objectives that are needed to connect theory and research questions in comparative historical analysis involve a choice or combination of at least three strategies (Skocpol and Somers 1980).

First, a specific theory in social science, such as a criminological theory about crime or crime control, can be subjected to a parallel investigation in distinct comparative settings or historical contexts in order to investigate and compare cases as modalities of a more general process. Second, different events across space or time can be interpreted as contrasting cases, each of which needs to be described accurately within its unique socio-historical context. Third, by means of the method of difference and similarity associated with the philosopher John Stuart Mill, social phenomena can be researched to develop the conditions that are present or absent in various cases. Typically, such an approach will isolate a range of variables that are either all-but-one different or all-but-one identical in two or more cases. By example, two societies with similar rates of property crime are found to be very dissimilar in cultural, political, and legal respects but share a similar level of economic development. Conversely, two societies with markedly different policing systems might share many economic, political, and legal conditions but differ greatly with respect to values related to individualism and collectivism. Through this identification of variables, as Durkheim (1895) already argued, the method of difference and similarity cannot provide an explanatory model based on theoretical considerations, but it can prepare the way for such a more thorough inquiry. Specifically, the simultaneous absence or presence of a particular social condition must still theoretically be substantiated to be a relevant variable of interpretation or explanation.

In comparative historical analysis of a qualitative nature, the research objectives are typically geared at an in-depth understanding of specific cases rather than investigations of more general patterns and trends across space and time. Quantitative scholars, conversely, typically do not adopt a case-based approach because of the problems they associate with so-called ‘small N’ research which relies on a small number of cases and thus has only limited, if any, value for general theories (Lieberson 1991). By example, case studies of policing in modern Japan or of violent crimes in 19th-century England would then be argued to not be able to contribute to general theories of police and crime. But qualitative researchers adopting comparative historical methods are not primarily concerned with proving a theory of crime or crime control, but instead are interested in uncovering whichever theories of crime or its control best fit the cases that are investigated. Abandoning a narrow obsession with seeking to demonstrate the explanatory power of a theory or the generalizability of findings from prior research, comparative historical analyses of a qualitative nature are primarily interested in the empirical characteristics of the social phenomena they study. They do not, therefore, subject society to social science, but instead allow appropriate social-scientific perspectives to be developed. This central goal of comparative historical analysis relates intimately to the building of cases.

Qualitatively minded comparative historical researchers demonstrate the value of the case in respects other than theoretical generality. What is specific about comparative historical analysis is that multiple observations are made about a relatively modest number of cases which are conceived of as a detailed understanding of a research unit (Goldstone 1999). Whereas statistical methods are argued to be impotent for the hermeneutic understanding of social life aimed at uncovering meanings, case-based approaches are defended because they resolutely embrace the notion that description is itself a worthwhile objective of social science (Abbott 2001). But comparative historical analysis can and should also move beyond description.

With respect to accurate and useful description as a vital research goal, cases need to first chart various combinations of relevant variables. Because the method of difference and similarity as such can only lead to exclude certain interpretations, an additional step of a highly theoretical nature is needed to make sense of the correlations that are uncovered. Supposing by example that two discrete societies share a large number of cultural and political characteristics as well as basic modalities of criminal justice, then additional work is needed to interpret how and why criminal justice is related to culture and politics. Likewise the study of one case, it is to be noted, is implicitly comparative inasmuch as it relates to the existing universe of cases from extant research.

Comparative Historical Studies of Crime and Deviance

It is practically impossible to review all the existing research that has been conducted in the areas of criminology and criminal justice on the basis of the methodology of comparative historical analysis. In order to offer a useful discussion of such work, this chapter will explore some of the basic characteristics and broad trends of comparative historical analysis in criminology and criminal justice, illustrated by means of some of the most exemplary and influential studies. Thus, this overview will show the value of the methodology of comparative historical analysis in social-science studies on crime and/or deviance and various aspects of criminal justice and thereby, hopefully, also contribute to the idea that such work has validity and can be valuable to the broader goals of criminology and the criminal justice sciences. Much like the methodology itself, relevant studies are rooted in the classical traditions of the social sciences and extend across disciplines, ranging from sociology to the research domain of criminology and the multidisciplinary field of the criminal justice sciences.

Crime and Deviance Across the Globe

The vast majority of criminological studies relevant from the viewpoint of comparative historical analysis are comparative studies of crime rather than of deviance (Van Dijk 2007). Most typically, these works will rely on official government reports of crime statistics, thereby presenting tremendous challenges of comparison as the employed legal categorizations of crime across two or more countries can vary considerably. It is therefore, by example, almost by definition problematic to present the homicide rates of two countries over a particular period of time in one two-column table. In fact, for similar reasons, even within-country comparisons of local jurisdictions can be problematic. The famous Uniform Crime Reporting Program that is managed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States (pertaining to crimes in all 50 US states as well as federal crimes) is illustrative of this problem.

There is some indication that specific types of crime have been studied more from an explicit comparative perspective based on a case-study approach than has crime in general. This finding could be related to the trend that the general incidence of crime tends to be studied quantitatively in terms of general patterns, while specific forms of criminality can be studied in a more in-depth qualitative fashion. A noteworthy example in recent years is the growing comparative literature on such pressing global crime problems as human trafficking (Hepburn and Simon 2013) and genocide (Brannigan 2013).

A constructive but largely ignored alternative to the quantitative comparative study of crime could be acquired from anthropological studies of deviance in select cultures as well as from qualitative studies on deviance that are conducted locally within various national settings. Disciplinary, linguistic, and national boundaries, however, have prevented such a thorough comparative analysis from taking place as social scientists in any one discipline are largely ignorant of advances in other disciplines, linguistically insufficiently competent, and primarily working within their own national setting. Thus, an American comparative criminologist will be unlikely to use an anthropological study on deviance in an African community or a sociological study of deviance in Tokyo published in Japanese. Recent developments in terms of a globalization of social science are too modest to have changed this situation in any substantial manner.

The History of Crime and Deviance

The predominance of crime studies in comparative criminological research also applies to historical work. Furthermore, similar to comparative work, the historical patterns of crime are typically examined on the basis of official crime statistics. But because of changes in various aspects of law, adjudication, and law enforcement, any observed trends in crime over time can never be safely concluded to be reflective of the dynamics of criminality as the result of the manner in which crime data are collected and analyzed and how crime is variably perceived (Godfrey, Lawrence and Williams 2008).

Interestingly, in the context of historical investigations, more explicit attention has gone to the manner in which crime is socially constructed, thus allowing for the differences between crime and deviance to be addressed, at least implicitly, via the study of the legal treatment of normative violations. Among the most groundbreaking studies in this respect is William Chambliss’ (1964) historical study of vagrancy and its treatment over time. Of course, as a result of its explicit focus on the manner in which vagrancy is legally defined and responded to, Chambliss’ study is primarily a work in the sociology of law rather than in criminology. Similar observations can be made about historical studies that have investigated other crimes, such as violence and homicide, over long periods of historical time, often involving several centuries. Noteworthy examples include inquiries of crime in the middle ages (Sharpe 1999), the path of crime in the development towards modernity (Emsley 2010), and the history of specific crimes such as banditry (Hobsbawm 1969).

The difference between crime (as legally defined norm violations) and (deviance as a broader category of violations of social norms) has only rarely been explicitly entertained in historical studies. Among the most influential of such studies is Kai Erikson’s (1966) sociological examination of deviant behavior in the colonial setting of 17th-century Massachusetts. On the basis of a Durkheimian theory of social solidarity, Erikson’s study reveals the role of deviant behavior in contributing to the social order as a result of its sanctioning in such infamous incidents as the Salem witch trials. This sociological treatment of deviant behavior in connection with the responses it receives in the community thus neatly reflects the value of a societal reaction perspective in accounting for the difference and relation between deviance and crime. Such a constructionist perspective has been employed, more or less explicitly, in other historical studies of deviance as well (Spierenburg 2013). By and large, however, it must be observed that qualitative work in historical deviance studies is much less developed than is the popular non-fiction literature about the history of crime, such as it is explored through biographies of major crime figures and narrative accounts of notable criminal events. Serious qualitative cases concerning the famous and infamous people and events of criminal history remain largely absent from the scholarly literature.

Comparative Historical Studies of Criminal Justice

Turning to the study of criminal justice systems and their various components, including policing and punishment, there is some indication that the prevalence of crime and deviance studies in criminology relative to the study of criminal justice is not mirrored in comparative historical works. In other words, while most criminological studies in general deal with norm violations or norm violators (crime and deviance), a majority of comparative historical criminology focuses on norm enforcement and norm enforcers (criminal justice, police, and punishment). A possible explanation is that the relative distance of the researcher to the subject matter in comparative historical analysis allows for a broader and more theoretically founded focus that investigates all relevant criminological dimensions, including activities and structures associated with institutions of authority such as criminal justice. Comparative historical analysis is less subject to a pull of the policy audience as its topics of investigation are removed in space and time from the pressures to develop practical knowledge. Other characteristics of comparative historical analysis on criminal justice are similar to its counterparts on crime and deviance.

Comparative Criminal Justice

Most work on comparative criminal justice offers descriptive accounts of the basic characteristics of criminal justice systems is multiple countries (Dammer and Albanese 2014; Reichel 2012). These works are not always very systematic in describing criminal justice systems along comparable dimensions of some theoretical relevance, but instead tend to merely offer a listing of various nations’ criminal justice systems without even much consideration of a principle of selection of, let alone of comparison among, the countries that are included. Even when questions of accuracy in described findings can be answered affirmatively, these studies often lack a theoretical framework that would bring out relevant aspects and characteristics and order them in a manner that could be useful for a criminologically informed understanding. In fact, even as singular case studies of criminal justice systems, such writings tend to often be mere overviews. When the characteristics of criminal justice in nations is compared, most typically relied upon will be the legal principles those systems are defined by. As such, a distinction is made between criminal justice systems in the civil law tradition (involving highly codified legislation), the common law tradition (relying on legal precedent), or the distinct traditions of socialist and Islamic criminal justice systems.

Those comparative studies that focus on selected aspects of criminal justice, such as policing and punishment, tend to be much more of a truly comparative nature by explicating relevant dimensions of comparison (Deflem 2010; Kethineni 2010). This finding makes sense because social-science theories on criminal justice are much better developed with respect to specific institutions, such as police and prisons, rather than the broad domain of criminal justice systems as a whole. The objectives of comparative analysis of selected institutions of criminal justice largely conforms to the methodology of contrasting cases. By example, there is a tradition of comparative studies on policing (Bayley 1985; Mawby 1990, 1999) and incarceration (Deflem 2014) that is theoretically grounded in work on the functions of police and punishment.

In view of an increasing trend in globalization, it will cause no surprise to observe that comparative work on criminal justice has gradually moved towards studies focused on international developments (Nelken 2011). This work specifically addresses the importation and exportation of criminal justice styles and selected components thereof as well as the elaboration of collaborative and other forms of international criminal justice. Among the arguably most studied relevant themes in recent decades have been international forms of policing such as police cooperation and other forms of cross-border police work (Casey 2010; Deflem 2002; Deflem and Bayer 2014). What those studies have shown empirically is that more than ever police institutions across the world are engaged in a variety of international activities, while they methodologically rely on comparative studies of the national agencies that are involved as no such thing as a supranational police agency has ever existed but all cooperative work is of a collaborative nature.

The History of Criminal Justice

As already mentioned in the review of the historical study of crime and deviance, much criminological work has been devoted to an entire range of structures and processes involved with criminal justice. Unlike the comparative study of criminal justice, the historical study of criminal justice has to some extent been advanced in terms of broad discussions of entire criminal justice systems (Beattie 2001; Taylor 1998), sometimes even with an added comparative focus (Emsley 2007). Typically, these studies will correspond to comparative work by analyzing the basic characteristics of criminal justice systems on the basis of internal legal principles. Other studies treat the history of criminal justice within one nation or otherwise confined jurisdiction. Several social-science theories have in these studies been relied upon to explain certain trends and characteristics. By example, modernization and civilization theory have been applied to account for decriminalization processes, the rise of the prison and the disappearance of corporal punishment (Deflem and Swygart 2000). Besides investigations of criminal justice in general, other historical studies focus on selected criminal justice institutions, especially police (Beattie 2012; Merriman 2006; Walker 1977) and punishment (Ignatieff 1978).

Historical studies on criminal justice have been conducted by a variety of scholars in the social sciences and humanities, including most evidently historians. Special attention to historical work within the criminal justice sciences has especially benefitted from the critical orientation in the social sciences that was launched during the 1970s and 1980s. The work of the French philosopher Michel Foucault, specifically his study on the development of the modern prison (Foucault 1977), has in this respect been most influential (Garland 1985; Deflem 1997).

Finally, as was the case for the comparative study of crime and deviance, the historical study of criminal justice has in recent decades been especially concerned with addressing the historical origins of international developments in criminal justice. It can be noted that such historical work is best developed on the basis of systematic theoretical frameworks explored in qualitative case studies when selected institutions are explored rather than criminal justice systems as a whole. Such theoretically informed work has, for example, addressed the historical development of international policing and the origins of international police organizations such as Interpol (Deflem 2002) as well as the historical development of police organization and policing styles (Deflem and Chicoine 2014).


Comparative historical analysis in criminology and criminal justice presents exciting opportunities for research. As this review has shown, the methodology is well established in the social sciences and has been usefully relied upon in research on crime and/or deviance and criminal justice. Considering the unevenness with which the method has been applied, however, a number of challenges remain. First, comparative historical analysis must be properly grounded in relevant criminological and criminal justice theory. Without such a grounding, comparative historical work remains too descriptive and of little value to the objective of developing systematic knowledge. Second, in order to form adequate links between theory and research, the methodological objectives of comparative historical work have to be firmly established beyond merely satisfying a curiosity in knowing crime and criminal justice conditions from other places or times. From a qualitative viewpoint, the value of comparative historical analysis can especially be revealed by contributing to analyzing the cultural contexts that are indispensable for an adequate interpretation of crime and/or deviance and criminal justice systems and institutions (Nelken 2010).

In the current era of globalization, scholarly efforts in comparative historical analysis have special value by uncovering, comparatively, the nationally and otherwise localized influencing factors and effects of international processes and structures of crime, deviance, and criminal justice. From a historical viewpoint, moreover, international developments can and need to be examined in terms of their origins in earlier periods of time. The inherently problematic nature of issues concerning crime and deviance as well their treatment in criminal justice should contribute to advance and expand, rather than avoid, work conducted on the basis of comparative historical analysis.

  • Abbott, A. (2001) Time Matters: On Theory and Method. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Adams, J., Clemens, E.S. and Orloff, A. (2005) ‘Introduction’, in J. Adams, E.S. Clemens and A. Orloff (eds.) Remaking Modernity: Politics, History, and Sociology, Durham: Duke University Press, pp. 1-72.
  • Bayley, D.H. (1985) Patterns of Policing, New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
  • Beattie, J.M. (2001) Policing and Punishment in London 1660-1750: Urban Crime and the Limits of Terror, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Beattie, J.M. (2012) The First English Detectives, Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
  • Brannigan, A. (2013) Beyond the Banality of Evil: Criminology and Genocide. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
  • Bulmer, M. (1984) ‘Introduction: problems, theories and methods in sociology’, in M. Bulmer (ed.) Sociological Research Methods, 2nd edn, London: MacMillan.
  • Casey, J. (2010) Policing the World, Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press.
  • Chambliss, W.J. (1964) ‘A sociological analysis of the law of vagrancy’, Social Problems, 12, 67-77.
  • Dammer, H.R. and Albanese, J.S. (2014) Comparative Criminal Justice Systems, 5th edn, Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
  • Deflem, M. (1997) ‘Surveillance and criminal statistics: historical foundations of governmentality’, Studies in Law, Politics and Society, 17, 149-184.
  • Deflem, M. (2002) Policing World Society: Historical Foundations of International Police Cooperation. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.
  • Deflem, M. (2010) The Policing of Terrorism, New York: Routledge.
  • Deflem, M (Ed.) (2014) Punishment and Incarceration: A Global Perspective, Bingley, UK: Emerald.
  • Deflem, M. and Bayer, M.D. (2014) ‘International law enforcement’, in J.S. Albanese (Ed.) The Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Deflem, M. and Chicoine, S. (2014) ‘History of technology in policing’, in G. Bruinsma and D. Weisburd (Eds), Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Berlin: Springer.
  • Deflem, M. and Dove, A.L. (2013) ‘Historical research and social movements’, in D.A. Snow, D. Della Porta, B. Klandermans and D. McAdam (eds.) The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Social and Political Movements, Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 560-563.
  • Deflem, M. and Swygart, A.J. (2001) ‘Comparative criminal justice’, in T. DuPont-Morales, M. Hooper and J. Schmidt (eds.) Handbook of Criminal Justice Administration. New York: Marcel Dekker Publishers, pp. 51-68.
  • Durkheim, E. ([1895] 1982) The Rules of Sociological Method, New York: The Free Press.
  • Emsley, C. (2007) Crime, Police & Penal Policy: European Experiences, 1750-1940, Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
  • Emsley, C. (2010) Crime and Society in England 1750-1900, 4th edn, London: Pearson.
  • Erikson, K. (1966) Wayward Puritans: A Study in the Sociology of Deviance, New York: John Wiley & Sons.
  • Foucault, M. (1977) Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, New York: Pantheon.
  • Garland, D. (1985) Punishment and Welfare: A History of Penal Strategies, Aldershot: Gower.
  • Godfrey, B., Lawrence, P. and Williams, C.A. (2008) History and Crime, London: Sage.
  • Golafshani, N. (2003) ‘Understanding reliability and validity in qualitative research’, The Qualitative Report, 8, 597–607.
  • Goldstone, J. (1999) ‘ASA didactic seminar on comparative sociology’, Comparative and Historical Sociology, Newsletter of the ASA Section, 12.
  • Hepburn, S. and Simon, R.J. (2013) Human Trafficking Around the World, New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Hobsbawm, E. (1969) Bandits, New York: Delacorte Press.
  • Ignatieff, M. (1978) A Just Measure of Pain, London: Macmillan.
  • Kethineni, S. (Ed.) (2010) Comparative and International Policing, Justice, and Transnational Crime. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press.
  • Krippendorf, K. (2013) Content Analysis: An Introduction to its Methodology, 3rd edn, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Lange, M. (2013) Comparative-Historical Methods, London: Sage.
  • Lieberson, S. (1991) ‘Small N’s and big conclusions’, Social Forces, 70, 1225-1237.
  • Mahoney, J. and Rueschemeyer, D. (2003) ‘Comparative historical analysis: achievements and agenda’, in J. Mahoney and D. Rueschemeyer (eds.) Comparative Historical Analysis in the Social Sciences, New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 3-38.
  • Mawby, R.I. (1990) Comparative Policing Issues, London: Unwin Hyman.
  • Mawby, R.I. (Ed.) (1999) Policing Across the World, Oxford, UK: Routledge.
  • Nelken, D. (2010) Comparative Criminal Justice: Making Sense of Difference, London: Sage.
  • Nelken, D. (Ed.) (2011) Comparative Criminal Justice and Globalisation, Surrey, UK: Ashgate.
  • Pitt, D.C. (1972) Using Historical Sources in Anthropology and Sociology, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
  • Reichel, P.R. (2012) Comparative Criminal Justice Systems, 6th edn, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
  • Sharpe, J.A. (1999) Crime in Early Modern England, 1550-1750, 2nd edn, London: Pearson.
  • Skocpol, T. and Somers, M. (1980) ‘The uses of comparative history in macrosocial inquiry’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 22, 174-197.

  • Spierenburg, P. (2013) Violence and Punishment: Civilizing the Body Through Time, Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.
  • Taylor, D. (1998) Crime, Policing and Punishment in England, 1750-1914, Basingstoke, Macmillan.
  • Van Dijk, J. (2007). The World of Crime. London: SAGE.
  • Walker, S. (1977) A Critical History of Police Reform: The Emergence of Professionalism, Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.

See related papers on comparative-historical research.