Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE ( © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 21 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Cesare Lombroso's atavism theory argues that criminals are primitive savages who are evolutionarily backward compared to normal citizens. According to Lombroso, born criminals possess an array of stigmata or markers that may be considered putative evidence of their criminality. These include their excessive tattoos, their manner of writing and talking, or the size and shape of their skull, ears, forehead, and hands. In his work, including Criminal Man , Lombroso provides a wide range of examples where he likens criminal offenders not only to primitive savages, but also to plants and animals. This article examines the factors that motivated Lombroso to become a criminologist, and the reasons why he used the approaches that he did to better understand the causes and correlates of crime. It first provides a brief overview of each chapter of each of the five editions of Criminal Man, before discussing differences between Lombroso's theory and current biosocial criminology.

Keywords: Cesare Lombroso, atavism theory, criminals, savages, criminality, Criminal Man, crime, biosocial criminology, plants, animals

Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.