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date: 29 May 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores the evolution of concepts and definitions relating to criminal organization since 1750. Terms such as the “underworld,” “organized crime,” and “professional crime” have increasingly become part of the criminal justice lexicon in the modern period. However, while there has been a strong tradition of criminological and sociological investigation into the structures and hierarchies of syndicated crime and street gangs in the first half of the twentieth century, much of this work has been dominated and implicitly shaped by North American contexts. The hidden nature of such criminal activity means that most attention has been paid to those offenders whose recidivism and notoriety brought them into public disrepute. Thus, historians’ investigations into organized crime have been characteristically limited. This chapter provides a broader overview of the historical chronologies and geographies of the “underworld” and explores the key historical studies into the organization of crime in the modern period.

Keywords: organized crime, gangster, Mafia, criminal networks, underworld, bandits, gangs

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