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date: 17 July 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This essay discusses women and patterns of crime in the Western world across time. Although criminologists generally agree that women are responsible for a considerably smaller proportion of prosecuted crime than men, historical studies indicate that they played a much more prominent role in crime before the twentieth century. This essay pays attention to explanatory factors for past high female crime rates, such as level of urbanization, migration patterns, and women’s public lifestyles. It also examines various important historical debates on changes in patterns of crime and gender, including the debate about the decline of female crime in Western Europe after 1800 and the discussion regarding women’s changing attitudes toward violence beginning in the eighteenth century. Finally, it examines shifts in female crime rates in the last two decades, concluding that more systematic data on male and female crime rates that include variation across time and space are needed.

Keywords: women, gender, early modern, public–private spheres, variation

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