Exploring the global history of homicide and massacre

Professor Pieter Spierenburg challenges the current view that our modern world is more lethal than ever. He has been at the forefront of arguing that despite the mass murder we associate with modernity our planet is not as violent as in the past and that we are living in less violent times. The history of homicide has given rise to contradictory views about the trends in lethal violence. While murder has declined in Europe from about 50-80 per 100,000 persons per annum in the Middle Ages to only 1-2 per 100,000 persons per annum during the last century there has also been an apparent rise in mass murders in modern times. Professor Spierenburg’s presentation explores the evidence and the explanations that animate this crucial debate about the long-term trends in violence.

Pieter Spierenburg is an Emeritus Professor from Erasmus University, Rotterdam, Netherlands and currently affiliated with the Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide (NIOD) as program leader of Four Centuries of Labor Camps. Professor Spierenburg joined Erasmus in 1977, first in the department of History and later at the Law Faculty, as Professor of Historical Criminology. He has published numerous articles and books on the history of crime and punishment. His works include The Spectacle of Suffering: Executions and the Evolution of Repression: From a Preindustrial Metropolis to the European Experience (1984 Cambridge University Press), A History of Murder: Personal Violence in Europe from the Middle Ages to the Present (Polity, 2008), and Written in Blood: Fatal Attraction in Enlightenment Amsterdam (Ohio State University Press, 2004). His most recent book is Violence and Punishment: Civilizing the Body through Time (Polity, 2012).

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