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date: 01 October 2020

(p. v) Preface

(p. v) Preface

The Oxford Handbook of Criminal Law is designed to facilitate the transformation of criminal law scholarship into a global discipline, by supplying its readers with a comprehensive resource, a common point of entry into cutting edge work in criminal law, freed of its traditional parochialism.1 To this end, the Handbook takes a broad approach to its subject matter, disciplinarily, geographically, and systemically. Its contributors include current and future research leaders from 11 countries (Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Finland, Germany, Israel, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States), who represent a variety of legal systems, methodologies, areas of expertise, and research agendas. Its content is similarly diverse in scope and substance, covering a wide spectrum of perspectives and topics.

Each chapter aims to provide an original, critical, and accessible account of the current state of debate. Chapters are conceived as freestanding essays targeted at an international audience of scholars and interested laypersons. Meant to inspire and to facilitate further awareness in its particular slice of the study of criminal law, each chapter also provides a short bibliography of key sources.

The Handbook is divided into four parts: Approaches and Methods (I), Systems and Models (II), Aspects and Issues (III), and Contexts and Comparisons (IV). The chapters in Part I explore various methodological vantage points on criminal law, providing an overview of past, present, and future work in the field, ranging from criminology, critical race theory, economics, and feminist studies, to history, literature, philosophy, sociology, and technology.

Part II features chapters on systems or conceptions of criminal law, including canon law, indigenous law, Islamic law, Jewish law, Marxist and Soviet law, and military law. Laying the foundation for further inquiry into specific conceptions of criminal law as well as for comparative analysis, these chapters highlight the basic features of the model in question, with a general focus on substantive—rather than procedural—aspects of criminal law (in keeping with the focus of the Handbook as a whole). (p. vi)

Part III makes up the bulk of the book and covers the three aspects of the penal process: the definition of norms and principles of liability (substantive criminal law), along with a considerably less detailed treatment of the imposition of norms (criminal procedure) and the infliction of sanctions (prison or correctional law), subjects that deserve their own Handbook treatment. Chapters in this part address many of the basic topics traditionally covered in criminal law scholarship, while collectively beginning to push analysis of these issues beyond its historically domestic doctrinal focus and, more broadly, beyond the familiar common law–civil law divide.

Finally, Part IV is explicitly devoted to placing criminal law in context, domestically and transnationally. Chapters in this part begin by exploring the contrasts—and points of contact—between criminal law, as a species of law, and other paradigms of state penal power, and by considering criminal law’s place within the realm of law of a given legal system, against the backdrop of the distinction between public law and private law as types of law and alongside other fields of law, such as tort law and administrative law. Part IV, and the book, end fittingly with chapters on comparative criminal law, European criminal law, and international criminal law, areas of inquiry that already exemplify the external critical analysis of criminal law beyond the domestic sphere.

Markus D. Dubber

Tatjana Hörnle


(1) Work on this project was supported by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.