An Essay On Crimes And Punishments

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As a young man, he fell in with brothers Pietro and Alessandro Verri and their “academy of fists,” The Verri brothers supplied the assignment and the insider knowledge of the criminal justice system of the day, and at the behest of this group, Becarria completed his famous essay On Crimes and Punishments in 1764.

In the time of its writing, Beccaria’s propositions that onerous punishments like torture and execution were unnecessarily cruel, disproportionate, and unlikely to serve as effective deterrents were novel.

Although they owed a debt to his intellectual forebears, in insisting upon a balance between fidelity to the social contract and the need to ensure that criminal punishment is useful and beneficial to society, the work can be said to prefigure one of today’s two dominant schools of penological thought—utilitarianism—as well as the death penalty abolition movement.

includes the 1767 English edition of An Essay on Crimes and Punishments based on a reference in William Clarkin's biography of Wythe.

The first systematic study of the principles of crime and punishment. Originally published anonymously in 1764, this is a reprint of the fourth edition, which contains an additional text attributed to Voltaire.

It had a profound influence on the development of criminal law in Europe and the United States, especially among the founding fathers.

Such punishments, therefore, and such a mode of inflicting them, ought to be chosen, as will make the strongest and most lasting impressions on the minds of others, with the least torment to the body of the criminal.

The torture of a criminal during the course of his trial is a cruelty consecrated by custom in most nations.

(c)Paul Halsall Aug 1997 The Internet History Sourcebooks Project is located at the History Department of Fordham University, New York.

The Internet Medieval Sourcebook, and other medieval components of the project, are located at the Fordham University Center for Medieval Studies.


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