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date: 22 February 2018

Historical Approaches to the Study of Crime, Media, and Popular Culture

Summary and Keywords

Historical study of crime, media, and popular culture has been underway since “the cultural turn” in the social sciences and humanities in the 1980s. Since then, a diverse literature has emerged presenting different theories, dealing with various time periods and topics, and challenging contemporary assumptions. Much of this work has focused on the press, because newspaper archives offer a familiar source for researchers accustomed to working with documents in libraries and because “moral panic” has provided a theory that can be easy moved from one time and place to another. However, crime, media, and popular culture presents a vast history and much of this has yet to be examined by criminologists. It includes broadcast radio, television, and feature films, as well as folklore, ballad and song, and theatrical performance, not to mention novels and stories. There has been enough historical research by specialists in literature, journalism history, film history, and other fields to demonstrate the value of historical research for criminology. But making to most of this history will require methodological innovation and theoretical development. To understand the history of crime, media, and popular culture, criminologists will need to move away from document-based historical research and toward digital forms of archived media. They will also need to develop theoretical perspectives beyond 1970s sociology.

Keywords: historical criminology, history of crime, history of criminal justice, media history, history of criminology


We live in a society saturated by knowledge of crime. Crime stories, ranging from news headlines to detective novels, are part of everyday life, circulated by satellites and servers linked to laptops, phones, and other electronic devices. When reading work by criminologists, it is easy to get the impression that we are the first generation to have this experience. References to the present time as the “information age,” “globalization era,” “postmodernity,” or “late modernity” appear throughout criminological analyses of crime, media, and popular culture (Dowler, Fleming, & Muzzatti, 2007; Greer, 2013; Greer & Reiner, 2012; Garland & Sparks, 2000). We live in a rapidly changing world, Garland and Sparks (2000) explain, and criminology now confronts an unprecedented media context. The “challenge of our times,” as they put it, is to understand how social science can possibly compete with media and popular culture in the production of knowledge for public policy.

From a longer-term perspective, crime, media, and popular culture have always been intertwined. Shoemaker (2009) demonstrates that crime was a recurring topic in every form of 18th-century print. As print became more available, for the first time in English history, popular views of crime were shaped more by what people read than by reports of friends and neighbors or personal experience of victimization. Pamphlets by social reformers, such as Patrick Colquhoun and Henry Fielding, exaggerated the extent of crime to justify their projects. News writers emphasized violence, not only in the frequency of their stories, but in the tone of their presentation. Printed reports of trial proceedings shaped popular views of court procedures, as much by what was described as by what was left out. Edited reports portrayed English justice as an efficient and coherent process. Shoemaker observes that English readers greeted this material with skepticism; they knew solving the problem of crime was more complicated than Fielding and others had made it appear (Shoemaker, 2009).

To understand the challenge of our times, we need an understanding of history. And, fortunately, historians have begun to offer a great deal of useful work. Historical study of crime, criminology, media, and popular culture has expanded rapidly since the “cultural turn” of the 1980s, and a large and diverse field of study has emerged. This article is divided into four parts. Part I presents the leading theories guiding historical analyses of crime and popular culture: Chevalier’s urban history, Hobsbawm and “history from below,” Foucault’s language of power, Elias’s social-psychoanalysis, and Ginzburg’s microhistory. Part II examines the role of cultural history in writing the history of criminology and identifies two challenges: synchronizing cultural and social time and incorporating material culture. Part III outlines a range of studies, including literature, the press, film, radio, and television. The media studies offer historical examples of the blurring of fact and fiction, the impact of media on criminal justice policy, Americanization of crime, and the limited impact of alarmism on the public. Part IV brings historical research and perspective to recent claims by criminologists that we are living in a new era of history characterized by information, images, or networks; new threats such as terrorism and cybercrime; or a culture of fear, anxiety, or insecurity. In the Victorian era, there was already an “Internet”—the telegraph—which produced instantaneous information and the “culture of fear” was so prevalent it became the subject of comedy theater.

Theoretical Perspectives

Historians, like criminologists, rely on theory. Theories provide a framework for posing questions, deciding what counts as evidence, and drawing conclusions from this evidence. A favorite theory of criminologists interested in media has been moral panic and historians have also pursued this approach. Historians have discovered panics in the 18th century (Lemmings & Walker, 2009; Williams, 2013) and the 19th century (Davis, 1980; Sindall, 1990), not to mention the 20th century. As a historical explanation, the concept raises some concerns (Rowbotham & Stevenson, 2005; Nicholas & O’Malley, 2013), but moral panic theory continues to guide historians and criminologists.

Urban Lore

There are, nevertheless, other ways of thinking about the history of crime and popular culture. In the The Labouring Classes (1973), Louis Chevalier explained the importance of crime in 19th-century Paris. Unprecedented migration to the city doubled its population and overwhelmed the ability of the infrastructure to cope. Crime was an everyday worry of the inhabitants, the source of widespread fear and misery. Rather than rely on the annual crime statistics issued by the government, Chevalier turned to literature about the working class: reports by novelists and journalists, accounts from the police gazette, and popular songs and street ballads. Critics charged that his sources were emotive and impressionistic; that he had merely charted fears of migrants, vagabonds, and strangers rather than demonstrate empirical relationships between demography and criminal activity. But Chevalier established the urban context as a framework for analyzing crime, and popular culture of crime remains an important theme in urban history (Kalifa, 2004; Freundschuh, 2006).

O’Brien (2000) explains that while she is interested in 19th-century England, rather than France, Chevalier’s approach usefully demonstrates the complexity of street ballads as cultural texts. Because they are different from news media, they document the lower classes’ view of themselves. London’s laboring classes produced hundreds of third-person narratives of murderous deeds, as well as first-person lamentations to sell and to sing at executions. Unlike Chevalier, O’Brian regards street ballads as popular texts that record resistance, rather than acquiescence to the label of criminal and dangerous classes. As texts presented at the scaffold, murder ballads transformed the target audience of the state’s particular lesson from an ignorant and criminal crowd into the image of a literate and literary public. The ballads were not amoral but because of the multiple meanings they inscribed on crime scenes conveyed lessons beyond the moral frame.

Floor-Up View

Marxist history offers another perspective. The British Marxist historians pursued history from the floor-up or “bottom up”—that is, as an attempt to reconstruct the mental world of an anonymous and undocumented people. The concept of “social banditry” grew out of Eric Hobsbawm’s studies of “primitive rebels” in the 1950s. Originally, he described social banditry as the most primitive form of social protest. In peasant societies, bandits offered protection. The peasants regarded them as their champions and turned them into a myth. Robin Hood is the archetype, although Spain and Italy produced more social bandits than England. Ordinary bandits became “social bandits” because they did something which was not regarded as criminal by local conventions, but was held as such by the state or local rulers. Social bandits appeared in rural conditions, in prepolitical and precapitalist societies, especially when the equilibrium was upset and the normal level of hardship was intensified by famines or wars. In Bandits, Hobsbawm (1969) offered further examples from Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Russia, and Turkey.

To write about social bandits, Hobsbawm used what he referred to as “a rather tricky source”: popular ballads and legends. He supposed that there were always some real characters behind the legends, men who lived up to their image, at least in some ways at some times. Critics charged that he had confused imaginary bandits, who were brave and noble, with real bandits, who colluded with landlords in victimizing the peasants. Concepts such as “social crime” romanticized criminal activities with a thin veneer of political motivation. But as a method of writing the history of crime, Hobsbawm’s excursion into the popular culture of the peasants broke with narrow histories of criminal justice institutions based primarily on official documents left by their founders and administrators. Few historians accept “social crime” as a useful concept along the lines Hobsbawm laid out. But the idea that histories of crime and criminal justice should seek to understand the lives and views of those caught up in the system—thieves, prostitutes, and prisoners—has proved an enduring theme.

Language of Power

Foucault offered another perspective with his version of cultural history. He said he wanted to “create a history of the different modes by which, in our culture, human beings are made subjects.” Culture expressed the language of power. He denied the importance of government, arguing against the state as the site of power. Power was to be found not in political relationships, nor legal, economic, or social relationships, but “micro-powers” activated through cultural space. In this way, he displaced the state from the center of criminal justice history. The institutions of police, courts, and prisons—symbols of the state’s authority over individuals—were less important. They might be constructed of steel and marble and located at prominent sites in population centers, but this was misleading. What was important were invisible, abstract, relationships of power-knowledge operating within cultural space (O’Brien, 1989).

More than any other single individual, Foucault initiated “the cultural turn” in crime history. Examining the history of crime as cultural narrative had wide implications, the first theoretical, and the second, methodological. First, it opened up a vast landscape of topics of study. Second, it expanded the array of sources. In looking back at documents, it erased any categorical distinction between factual and fictional accounts. Official reports, social surveys, journalists’ investigations, and crime statistics lost significance as measures of what was going on, but had equal weight with detective novels as “crime stories” (Leps, 1992). Foucault seemed to be saying that anything and everything offered clues into the microphysics of power: police photographs, artwork of murderers, tattooed bodies, advertisements for security systems, and clothing worn by prisoners (Anderson, 2001; Terry, 2010; Ylimaunu, Symonds, Mullins, & Salmim, 2014).


Although Foucault has held a powerful grip over writing the history of crime, at least two other perspectives have emerged since the 1980s. The Civilizing Process has been described as a fusion of history, social theory, and psychoanalysis. Norbert Elias replaced Foucault’s revolutionary view of cultural change with a theory of cultural change as a long, slow process—so slow as to be invisible. He explored the behavior of people who believed themselves to be civilized, with a focus on France, Germany, and England. He saw the formation of manners as a psychic process extending over many centuries, a process that could be glimpsed from examples of everyday life: eating at the table, activities in the bedroom, attitudes toward bodily functions. He wanted to show how violating the rules for these activities generated feelings of shame and repugnance. In explaining how this change came about, Elias referred to how elites launched offensives or missions intended to establish cultural superiority. And he described the formation of the state and the monopoly of force. This monopolization of violence brought about an array of social demands and prohibitions, which drilled down into how people felt about themselves and altered the makeup of individual personality (Elias, 1978).

Although Elias never discussed crime or criminal justice, his concept of “conscience formation” within the development of European culture has become a popular explanation for long-term trends in violent crime. One reason is elasticity. It can be extended to cover Europe across several centuries (Johnson & Monkkonen, 1996) or to a city across several decades (Adler, 2001). Even where the pace has been uneven, or running backward (continuing use of torture and brutality), these can be explained as the diffusion of culture from elites to the masses. Mennell (2009) suggests that the relative weakness of state institutions in the southern United States explains higher rates of violence among African Americans.


There is also microhistory. The leading figure has been Carlo Ginzburg, a founding editor of the microstorie book series. He wrote about the lives of people living in sixteenth-century Rome and Bologna, and he treated them as if they were the citizens of a far-away country. Through the intense scrutiny of a few legal documents, especially records of interrogations, he recovered interactions between elite culture and popular culture (Ginzburg, 1993). For microhistorians, as Muir and Ruggiero (1994, p. 226) explain, “History begins where justice ends.” After the legal proceedings have ended, and archivists have stowed away the records, microhistorians can go to work, using these materials for their own purposes. The value of the criminal records is not so much what they reveal about the particular crime but what they reveal about otherwise invisible or opaque realms of experience. Microhistorians move beyond the specific documents and events to examine effects and contexts related to the broader society and culture. “Crime opens many windows on the past” (Muir & Ruggiero, 1994, p. 226).

Dale (2006) brings microhistory to an understanding of homicide in the United States. Rather than try to account for regions with a high incidence of homicide or explain the factors behind long-term homicide trends, she brings a microscopic examination of two murder cases in one place at a moment in time. She found that the “culture of violence” in South Carolina led to fewer rather than more murders. Culture had a key role in implementing extra-legal justice in punishment; it produced alternatives to the formal legal system. Acquittal did not signal resignation or reluctance to punish but punishing by social means; for defendants in both cases, legal acquittal meant life-long shame and ostracism. She encouraged historians interested in murder to “dig deep for the facts that determined outcomes in particular cases” and to “look beyond the legal outcomes” to see who, and how, punishment was delivered in other ways.

History, Criminology, and Popular Culture

The “cultural turn” in humanities and social sciences during the 1980s revitalized the history of criminology. Before then, the tale of how criminology emerged had been told as the progression of key figures and schools of thought within the history of science. Writing the history of criminology within a cultural framework has allowed us to see that media and popular culture have been essential aspects of the story.

Popular Culture Matters

When the history of criminology was written as the development of scientific knowledge, Cesare Lombroso had a small role. He was mentioned only as a false start before serious work got underway; the nonsense he wrote has nothing to offer modern criminology. But this view only raises a question: How does someone with silly ideas initiate the worldwide study of crime? There is not a place on the global map with criminology today that did not start with L’uomo delinquente (Knepper, 2017). When seen from the perspective of cultural history, the question of Lombroso’s influence can be answered. From the beginning, Lombroso’s work had extraordinary appeal to popular culture. He presented his ideas in evocative ways, such as his exhibit on the evolution of criminal man staged at the inaugural International Congress of Criminal Anthropology at Rome in 1885. He filled the main hall of the Palazzo delle Belle Arti with curious artefacts: skulls arranged on display tables, body parts floating in alcohol-filled jars, faces revealed in photographs, and death masks. The exhibit contained some 70 skulls of Italian criminals, a complete skeleton of a thief, and slices of prisoners’ tattooed skin. He displayed aspects of the criminal’s body in 300 photographs, life-size sketches, and handwriting samples (Starr, 2011, p. 127).

Lombroso produced hundreds of articles in Italian, French, German and English. Not only did he write for academic journals but also magazines and newspapers, and on an astonishing array of subjects. In the 1880s, when the “bicycle craze” swept across European cities, Lombroso wrote an article on the implications for crime: the ways in which the bicycle both facilitated criminal behavior and served as a means of crime prevention. When Luigi Lucheni murdered the Empress Elisabeth of Austria in Geneva, Lombroso interviewed Lucheni in prison and published his report on the mind of a terrorist (and Lombroso’s theory of political crime included the importance of the press). When photographs of ghosts appeared, Lombroso visited haunted houses, observed mediums at work, and published his inquiries into the spirit world. Lombroso made frequent references to literature in his writing, and his name appears alongside some of the best-known characters in crime and horror fiction, including Count Dracula, Sherlock Holmes, and Inspector Maigret. Bram Stoker, Arthur Conan Doyle, Josef Conrad, Georges Simenon, and Leo Tolstoy worked him into their novels. These references built Lombroso’s celebrity, often at the expense of his credibility (Bell, 2005, p. 18).

Lombroso expressed his ideas in dramatic emotional language characteristic of the Italian opera. He attracted readers because he delivered fantastic, monstrous characters with a scientific provenance and framed the empirical evidence in narratives. Not only was such material inspired by opera, it became opera. Following Lombroso’s rise to prominence, the Italian musical theater shifted from costume dramas, noble sentiments, and Romanticism, to unsavory themes afforded by criminal anthropology. There is more than one example of opera in the late nineteenth century built around crimes of passion, degenerate prostitutes, the low-life of cities, and “Oriental” characters (Hiller, 2013).

Cultural History and Its Discontents

One of the challenges to a cultural history of criminology is the link between “cultural time” and “social time.” The general strategy has been to uncover the wider social and cultural conditions behind the development of criminological theories. In this way, criminological ideas can be traced to a particular period of time in which the conditions were right for a theory to emerge. Valier (2002), for example, traced strain theory to the Jazz Age. Merton styled his theory as a critique of American society in the 1920s in which too much emphasis had been placed on economic success. People accepted these goals but, unable to achieve them, experienced “strain,” which drove them to seek success by an alternative, illegal route. Merton mentioned the figure of Al Capone as the embodiment of the adaptation to strain in a society that values economic affluence and social ascent and in which channels of vertical mobility were narrow or closed.

Historical research reveals, however, that characters fitting Merton’s description of “innovation” lived in another place at an earlier point in time. England in the 19th century displayed conditions very much like Merton found in 20th-century American society. The novels of Anthony Trollope contain characters preoccupied with outward respectability and who become involved in criminal situations. In Victorian society, money buys status. The character of Melmotte in The Way We Live Now (1875) achieves his position at the top of London society through shady means. He operates as a company promoter for a dubious railroad company. Like Merton, Trollope explained criminality as a characteristic of a morally confused society (Burney, 2012, pp. 165–166).

Another challenge has been incorporating material culture. Material culture studies have been carried out in archaeology, anthropology, and increasingly, history—the “material turn” in history following on from the “cultural turn.” Material culture understands its subject matter as the meaning things have for people or, in other words, the relationship between objects and people. Objects have personal meaning, but referring to this as culture indicates collective or shared meanings (Gerritsen & Riello, 2015, pp. 1–2). Material culture history means situating shared meanings attached to objects in time.

When we add material to cultural analysis, a neglected dimension of the development of criminology comes into view. Hans Gross, Alexandre Lacassagne, and Rodolphe Reiss have been assigned to the history of forensic science because they appear to be talking about technical aspects of recovering legal evidence at crime scenes. But they concerned themselves with a much more interesting project that belongs to the history of criminology: reconstruction of past events from traces available in the present (Valier, 1998). Consider Reiss. In forensic science, he gets credit for inventing crime-scene photography and founding the first university-based forensic laboratory. In 1909 he started the Institute of Forensic Science at the University of Lausanne. He contributed work to 685 cases between 1904 and 1919, including work on crime scenes, document examination, explosive devices, and forged notes. Reiss also traveled to Paris to study with Bertillon and while he was there, developed an interest in the Apaches, a violent subculture in the city.

Reiss stressed the importance of leaving the laboratory to study criminality in situ. In his Manuel de police scientifique (1911), he explained that to understand professional criminals, such as the Apaches, it was necessary to enter the criminal underworld, to talk to them in their own language, to study their work and the tools they used. On visits to Paris, he collected information, and made numerous photographs, of cafés, bars, hotels, and hovels inhabited by Apaches; he wanted to learn their specialization, recruitment methods, and information-gathering techniques; the places where they met for leisure and to drink alcohol; their fashion style, tools and instruments, and tattoos (Montani, 2014). He used photography to understand urban culture in a way not like the Chicago school would do with their spot maps.

Range of Cultural Studies

Historical study of crime, media, and popular culture ranges from novels to news and across media, including print, radio, film, and television. Each of these has attracted its own scholarship, with histories written by scholars in film, technology, communication, and cultural studies. While specialists in these fields ask their own questions about the past, there are aspects of their work of interest to criminologists.


The “crime genre” has particular importance for the historical study because themes in crime fiction tend to be recycled in literature, as well as on radio and television and in film. According to the usual account, Edgar Allen Poe invented the modern detective story in 1841 and Arthur Conan Doyle perfected it with the cases of Sherlock Holmes. In the 1920s, Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers brought crime from the short story to the novel and created the model for murder mystery. Meanwhile, in the United States, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Erle Stanley Garner produced the “hard-boiled” detectives behind the lurid covers on the pulp magazines. Crime fiction has become recognized as a legitimate part of English literature, although exactly what the “crime genre” includes, and when it began, remains a discussion among scholars of literature (Priestman, 2003). Cohen (1997) investigates the “beautiful female murder victim” motif. It has been traced to the American “penny press” of the 1830s and 1840s. But he found that the motif appears in American literature at the beginning of the 19th century, when the press, in covering a series of murders, revived elements of a tradition in English literature going back as early as the mid-16th century.

The relationship between literary imagination and historical events—between fiction and reality—has proven a fruitful area for research. Thomas (1999) points to the role of detective fiction in the formation of forensic science. Edmond Locard, one of the founders, is known for establishing the “exchange principle” that “every contact leaves a trace.” The “dust” attached to clothing and bodies represented “silent witnesses” of all encounters, and it could be found on all surfaces, including the human body. Also, dust retained its properties or signature, meaning that minute fragments of material could be identified. When asked about his theory, Locard credited Sherlock Holmes: in A Study in Scarlet, the imaginary detective identified cigar ash found at the murder scene, and in The Sign of Four, tracked specks of red clay to the street outside the Wigmore Street post office. We see the interaction between the imaginary world of fiction and public understanding of actual crime, including criminologists’ understanding of crime. von Rothkirch (2013) examines the types of villains in detective stories, which reflect “the public imagination about crime: our fears … of the dreadful acts that might be committed.” She points to, nevertheless, a more specific source: villains in detective stories from 1890s to the 1920s reproduced typologies from the developing criminal sciences, including the born criminal, habitual and professional criminal, occasional criminal. She suggests that the criminal types proposed by criminologists reflected public fears and anxieties constructed by media and popular culture, not the empirical or analytical methods criminologists claimed to have used to develop them.

The Press

Crime news has been an important contributor to popular wisdom of crime, at least since the rise of the “new journalism” in the 19th century. From the 1850s, the serious journalism that characterized British newspapers was challenged by a new style that supplemented the focus on politics and parliamentary commentary with more human interest and sensational stories, primarily editorial crime, sexual violence, and human curiosities. The first edition of the News of the World, in 1843, carried a single column about drugging and violence, and by the 1880s, most articles had to do with murder, crime, and other thrilling events. The Daily Telegraph, founded in 1855, adopted this style, and other newspapers followed suit. The Daily Mail, established in 1896, became the first mass-circulation newspaper, with a circulation of nearly one million by 1900. The manager, Lord Northcliffe, made mysterious deaths, strange crime, and tales of personal suffering staple themes of the newspaper. “Get me a murder a day” was said to be his editorial philosophy (Williams, 1998, p. 56).

The “new journalism” made crime a regular feature of news, establishing a practice that continued into the 20th century and beyond. It could be argued that the media-driven society of the 21st century started in the 19th century. Casey (2011) provides an example of how the Victorian press influenced the content and timing of criminal justice policy. Press attention to violent crime led to a misplaced belief in the inexorable rise in criminal violence, especially murder. This led to a re-evaluation of crime policy and stalled the reform movement’s move toward the abolition of capital punishment. At mid-century, the abolition of capital punishment had seemed guaranteed, but this was derailed by a press-driven crime wave.

Homicide was so important to the journalism of the 19th century that, as Flanders (2011) puts it, the Victorians “invented” murder. Because murder was a rare event in Britain, most people never worried about becoming victim and could safely indulge in sensational accounts. Thinking about murder in the realm of pretending can be fun, like watching the rain from a comfortable chair indoors. She reviews the variety of ways Victorians created the modern fascination with crime, from broadsheets, pamphlets, magazines, and newspapers. The public learned of Thomas Briggs, the first man to be murdered on a train, and John Tawell, first murderer caught by means of the telegraph. They read about poisonings and policing, sensational trials; murder in middle-class houses, and murders committed by women. They visited crime scenes, attended funerals, and crowded into courtrooms. They toured Madame Tussaud’s waxworks and filled the seats at theaters that staged murder plays. Murder was an “art,” to be experienced on the theatrical stage, the newspaper page, and in song and ballad (Flanders, 2011, p. 466).

The Whitechapel murders of 1888 have attracted wide attention. Historians have examined various aspects of the case, from newspapers (Curtis, 2001) to photographs (McLaughlin, 2003). The difference between the low incidence of homicide and the regularity of murder in the news may, if Flanders is right, explain the Jack the Ripper phenomenon. However, Walkowitz (1992) points to a deeper significance. She targets news stories about the “the ripper” murders in late 19th-century London. “By focusing on narrative,” Walkowitz explained, she wanted to “explore how cultural meanings around sexual danger were produced and disseminated in Victorian society, and what were their cultural and political effects” (Walkowitz, 1992, p. 83). She discussed how the theatrical characters of the innocent and wronged heroine appealed to working-class women and galvanized women reformers, and how the “facts” of London life contained in the social surveys of Mayhew and Booth convinced Parliament to enact legislation. And how the ripper stories operated as a form of control over women, a counterweight to the rising tide of female emancipation. She reinforced the “history of the present” by ending with a discussion of the “Yorkshire ripper” murders of the 1980s.

There seem to have been other rippers about the same time. Studies of these cases illustrate the ways in which politicians and the police made use of portrayals of violence in the press. Garza (2007) writes about late 19th-century Mexico City when a “ripper” stalked the streets. He looks in detail at the trials of Francisco Gurrero, El Chalequero, for rape and murder of several women. These highly publicized crimes gave the impression the city was drowning in criminality, and the elite used this to construct Mexican identity: the culture and behavior of the criminal underclass demonstrated what their society was not. In this same way, the government used the image of barbaric criminality to celebrate the triumph of modern state (Garza 2007). Müller (2011) deals with a German “ripper” before the First World War. In 1909, with a series of stabbings taking place in Berlin, journalists rediscovered the Whitechapel narrative. The cases were not alike. There had been only 41 attacks, only one resulted in a death, and the only real similarity was that all the victims were women. There was also a significant difference in the police response. In the London case, the police sought denied details to the newspapers, and news-writers fabricated the legendary “ripper” narrative in response. In Berlin, the authorities supplied information to the press, and most newspapers referred to the attacker as the “Berlin knifer” rather than the misleading “ripper” tag (Müller, 2011).


In the 20th century, film, radio, and television joined the press in media portrayals of crime. Many of these studies reveal media presentations that blur the distinction between fact and fiction. Toulmin (2004) discovered the earliest British crime film, The Arrest of Goudie, made in 1901 by the Mitchell and Kenyon Film Company. Goudie, a clerk at the Bank of Liverpool, had been convicted for the embezzlement of £170,000 from his employer. After a nationwide search, including surveillance at railway stations and ports, the police concluded he had escaped the country or committed suicide. Just then, the police received a tip and made the arrest: Goudie had been hiding 500 yards from a police station. The Prince of Wales theater in Liverpool screened The Arrest of Goudie three days after the actual arrest of Goudie had taken place. Many Mitchell and Kenyon films featured recreations of known events in actual locations. Crime reconstruction emerged from the beginning of the motion picture industry (Toulmin, 2004).

In the United States, the “white slave trade” furnished a theme for the emerging film industry. Traffic in Souls, premiered at Weber’s Theater in New York in 1913, was one of a number of films on the white slave trade. It was the film that led to inclusion of the white slave trade on the list of subjects prohibited by the Hay’s production code. It was also an early feature film, the first released on Broadway, drawn from “real life,” that is, not based on a famous novel or play. The film tells the story of a Swedish girl who falls victim to a sophisticated gang of traffickers. Lured by the promise of employment, she is drugged and wakes up in a brothel. The man at the head of the organization established to fight the white slave trade is secretly leading the trafficking ring. To find the missing girl, her sister goes undercover at the organization, and with the use of a Dictaphone, uses this information to allow the police to raid the brothel and rescue her sister (Brewster, 1991).

The 1930s introduced the “gangster” film. In Public Enemy (1931), James Cagney established the Hollywood image of the gangster that would persist for decades: night life, fine clothes, and expensive cars. A small-time crook and ethnic minority (Irish) from a tough neighborhood, Cagney presented a character so determined to crawl out of poverty that only an army of G-men with machine guns could stop him (Ruth, 1996). The gangster revived the old tradition of social banditry and primitive rebellion, but unlike the cowboy and outlaw, did not offer escape into the past or an alternative landscape. Gangster films posed questions of “here and now”; the failure of institutional power in the wake of the Wall Street crash of 1929 and difficult questions about the difference between legitimate and illegitimate means of pursuing the American dream (Munby, 1999). Gangster films found an audience outside the United States and represent evidence that the process of Americanization or globalized culture was already underway before the Second World War.

Davies (2007) examines the social impact of gangster films in Britain. The American underworld provided compelling demonstrations of crime in the modern age, the combination of big business and lethal violence. He notes the growth of film in Britain and the tremendous popularity of American gangster movies. The American presence on cinema, specifically, Chicago gang wars, furnished an explanation for aberrant violence in British cities. Drawing on newspaper article, Davies explains how the press transformed Glasgow into “the Scottish Chicago.” Journalists abandoned the term “hooligans” and emphasized instead the gangster menace. The press, as well as police and city officials, had a number of strategies for moving Chicago action closer to Scotland. They highlighted links between the city and the Chicago underworld, but also the extent to which local youth had learned gangsterdom from the film portrayals. Scarface (1932) and other gangster films offered instruction in criminal methods; young men did not see the film as entertainment, but as instruction in how to avoid mistakes and become “better” crooks (Davies, 2007).

Gangster films gave way to genre of films in the 1940s and 1950s that became known as film noir, named after a series hard-boiled detective novels published in France. Many of these were produced on a small budget as B-movies or by smaller studios. Both the gangster film and film noir dealt with crime. But in film noir, the crime was not committed by a “professional” criminal but an ordinary citizen drawn into criminality—or who appears to have been drawn into criminality—by a strange sequence of events (Fluck, 2001, p. 383). The typical noir plot featured a detective, respective citizen, or drifter. Humphrey Bogart became the exemplary noir hero, the ordinary guy whose life takes a bad turn in films such as The Maltese Falcon, To Have and Have Not, and The Big Sleep. There appears to be a mysterious force intent on destroying him. In other films, such as Double Indemnity, Out of the Past, and The Postman Always Rings Twice we see not the falsely accused citizen, but a bumbling amateur involved in crime, an ordinary citizen that abandons a moral anchor in pursuit of forbidden pleasure. The boundary between citizen and criminal become blurred (Fluck, 2001, p. 392).


Broadcast radio began in the 1920s. The United States adopted commercial radio early on with sponsored programs. By 1923, some 460 radio stations broadcast on the same wave length, and competed with each other, trying to blot out the rival station’s signal. They filled the airwaves using every form of entertainment, and significantly, crime.

Cheatwood (2010) found 97 different crime-related programs broadcast on American radio between 1932 and 1958, including detective shows, police or criminal procedure dramas, and mystery programs. These programs repeated many themes from pulp magazines and dime novels. Radio became a common feature of American homes in the 1930s, and in the 1940s, detective series attracted large audiences. Boston Blackie, Bulldog Drummond, Nero Wolf, and The Saint premiered during the early 1940s. They were inexpensive to produce and attracted large audiences (Cheatwood, 2010). The FBI experimented with radio for crime prevention. J. Edgar Hoover commissioned a series, originally known as G-Men, to counter popular admiration for urban mobsters and roving bandits. The series became Gangbusters, which ran for more than two decades. The storylines came from police files and investigative reports as well as detective novels, and featured wailing sirens, feminine shrieks, and slamming doors. Critics claimed the program offered a do-it-yourself manual for young criminals rather than a moral message that crime does not pay (Razlogova, 2006).

In Britain, the authorities recoiled at the “chaos” crackling over American airwaves but allowed major radio manufacturers to set up the BBC in 1922. Broadcast radio was controlled by a board of directors and financed by a license fee; radio audiences reached five million by the end of the 1920s, and virtually every household in Britain by 1940s. The BBC considered airing crime a “Crime Talk” in the 1930s. The commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Lord Trenchard, would give the official view of the “motor bandits” reported in the press. But the Home Office would not approve it (Knepper, 2009, pp. 41–42). The BBC did manage to air a series on famous trials, beginning with “Let Justice Be Done” in 1934. The series was meant to provide civic education rather than merely entertainment. Nevertheless, the series featured sensational criminal cases, including “The Camden Town Murder,” the trial of a young artist for the murder of a prostitute, and “The Maybrick Mystery,” the trial of a woman for the murder of her husband. Because these cases had occurred within living memory, Shale (1996, p. 814) argues, the “boundary between real law and radio law is … at least a little blurred.”


When television sets became home furnishings in the late 1940s and early 1950s, broadcasters looked to radio for drama programs that resonated with audiences. They found westerns and crime stories. Detective shows such as Martin Kane, Private Eye, and Man Against Crime offered simple storylines and an abundance of action. Then, in 1951, with Jack Webb as Joe Friday in Dragnet, television registered its own success. The series replaced the hard-drinking, woman-chasing private operator of pulp magazines with black-and-white images of a hard-working, long-suffering public servant. The show offered a documentary style, with outdoor scenes and police lingo to add realism. It also offered audiences something more: “a sense of security” in an era of increasing crime rates (Stark, 1987, p. 246). Dragnet influenced crime dramas for decades. By 1952, there were 29 police shows on the air, and by 1954, Time magazine announced that more people were killed on television each year than in the six largest cities as reported by the FBI. Dragnet established the popularity not only of police shows, but lawyer shows as well. The first episode of Perry Mason aired in 1957. The character, played by Raymond Burr, combined Sam Spade’s distrust of established institutions (especially the Los Angeles Police Department) with Joe Friday’s commitment to law as a public good (Stark, 1987, p. 249).

It was not, however, Jack Webb or Raymond Burr that established television as the major medium for public knowledge of crime, but Estes T. Kefauver, U.S. senator from Tennessee. In 1951, Kefauver chaired the U.S. Senate Committee to Investigate Crime and Interstate Commerce. The Kefauver Committee conducted a series of hearings into organized crime and introduced the Mafia to the American vocabulary. Kefauver understood earlier than most politicians that television was the medium for promoting political messages. The senator presided over hearings in cities across the country. In New Orleans, the hearings were simulcast on radio and television for the first time, and in New York, the proceedings were transformed from local a news event to national spectacle. The characters called before the committee seemed to have stepped from a Hollywood gangster film. But what made it the “greatest TV show ever aired” was the live quality of the hearings, the sense of viewing actual events as they happened in real time, and the sharing experience at the same moment across time and space. Mobster Frank Costello refused to appear before television cameras, so Kefauver agreed not to show his face. Cameras instead zoomed in on his hands, and the image—glistening palms, hairy fingers, nervous shredding of paper, fiddling with eyeglasses—became riveting. And then there was Virginia Hill Huser, moll of “Bugsy” Siegel, who brought sex and glamour to the Committee room. She told a fascinating tale of how she had gone to Chicago in 1933 to “sling hash” at the World’s Fair in 1933 and met “some fellas” who showered her with money and horse racing tips. Local business paused to watch the proceedings; neighbors shared living rooms for “Kefauver block parties,” and “local theaters abandoned regular programming to air the proceedings” (Doherty, 1998).

By the 1960s, crime television itself became the focus of a congressional inquiry. The Untouchables, a crime series that aired from 1959 to 1963, became the focus for questions about violence and sex as popular entertainment. The series fictionalized the experiences of Eliot Ness at the U.S. Treasury and his handpicked associates, fighting to bring down the underworld empire of Capone in 1930s Chicago. It was an unusually violent program for its time and featured stark portrayals of drug abuse and prostitution, receiving a characterization by the National Association for Better Radio and Television as “not fit for the television screen.” In 1961, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency, chaired by Connecticut senator Thomas Dodd, began a seven-year-long investigation into the television industry. The Untouchables became the lightning rod for critical scorn, public disgust, and official concern. Unlike previous inquiries, the Dodd committee subpoenaed scripts, network reports, and internal memoranda. The series became the largest source of subpoenaed material. The investigation brought broadcast reformers, governmental officials, and social science researchers to address the social impact of crime television (Boddy, 1996).

Technology and the Globalization of Anxiety

The criminological critique of the present often refers to the present as the end of one period of historical time and the beginning of another. What we see in media and popular culture reflect wider changes in occurring as part of an emerging era known as the information age, globalization era, network society, postmodernity or late modernity. The world is undoubtedly different than it was a century ago, but working out the periodization of historical time is notoriously difficult. Historical research contributes valuable knowledge and insight into the pace and process of change, the reasons behind it, and what is new or novel about our own era.

The Information Age

We may be moving into a period of time characterized by information, networks, images, or another aspect of contemporary media. Greer (2013, p. 25) emphasizes innovation in communications technology during the past one hundred years has imbued media presentation of crime with more importance that it has ever had before. Once news traveled by ship; now it is available 24 hours a day at the touch of a button. Dowler, Fleming, and Muzzatti (2007, p. 837) emphasize the rapid development of knowledge during the past two hundred years from information spread by word-of-mouth to a society inundated with information. Actually, news was available at the “touch of a button” more than a hundred years ago. By the late 19th century, there was already a globe-encircling communications network comprised of telegraph lines and undersea cables. Telegraph cables criss-crossed continents in the 1850s, and the first undersea cables were laid in the 1860s. By 1904, there were some 13 cables across the North Atlantic alone, used by the press and news agencies, trading and shipping companies, governments, and the general public. The offices of L’Illustration in Paris sent the first photograph by wire in 1907—a photo of King Edward. Within a week, the Daily Mirror printed a photograph of a woman arrested for forgery at Boulogue, emphasizing the usefulness for the new technology in tracking “hunted criminals” (Knepper, 2009, p. 28).

The first generation to experience instantaneous flow of information lived in the 19th century with “the Victorian Internet”—the telegraph. “The equipment may have been different,” Standage (1998, p. 2) observes, “but the telegraph’s impact on the lives of its users was strikingly similar.” The telegraph allowed people to communicate almost instantly across great distance; it was a worldwide communications network that spanned oceans and continents. The telegraph revolutionized business practices, allowed for “on-wire” romance and marriages; and inundated users with information. Advocates claimed it would bring huge changes in society; everything from news gathering to diplomacy would have to be re-examined. Governments failed to regulate it, while a technological subculture with its own customs and vocabulary sprouted up. The telegraph also afforded individuals with novel opportunities for fraud, theft and deception. Criminals tried to take advantage of information known at one place before it was available at another, such as the outcome of a horse race. Although governments attempted to reserve the use of telegraphic codes and ciphers for themselves, unscrupulous bankers shared inside information. Banks desired their own codes. Worries about the insecurity of money transfers was holding back the development on on-wire commerce. Bribing telegraphists to send false or delay sending correct information became illegal. For Standage, the emotions associated with the Internet—dreams, fears, bewilderment, excitement—are not consequences of technology, but human nature. He suggests that characterizations of the present as a new area different from the past amount to “chronocentricity,” the tendency to believe that one’s own generation sits at the cusp of history (Standage, 1998, p. 199).

In recent years, there has been an extensive discussion of the “CSI effect”: the idea that fictional presentations of forensic technology (as shown in the hit television show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation) have given the public unrealistic expectations about what can be achieved and its importance in criminal proceedings. But the recent television series was not the first work of fiction to bring forensic science to a popular audience or to spark debates about the effects on scientific representations on public understanding and expectations. In the United States between 1909 and 1919 (after Sherlock Holmes and before Hercule Poirot), crime-scene analysis proved an especially popular theme for crime fiction. Fictional detectives popular in this period included Craig Kennedy, who appeared in Cosmopolitan, a popular magazine with more than a million subscribers. The plot of a Craig Kennedy yarn established a pattern reprised in the CSI series: open with a crime that requires investigation; have a scientific detective who analyzes the evidence using novel techniques or innovative equipment and comes to a conclusion, announced to gathering of police, suspects, victims (Littlefield, 2011, p. 138). In the 1920s, forensic pathologists such as Bernard Spilsbury in Britain achieved celebrity status. Extensive newspaper coverage of Spilsbury’s contribution to court raised the expectations of the powers of England’s leading pathologist. In the Thorns case, in which the defendant was sent to the gallows on Spilsbury’s claim to be able to see external bruising from internal tissue decay led to “Spilsburyism,” a science that had grown in public imagination to such an extent in the early 20th century it became threatened by its own success (Burney & Pemberton, 2011).

Twenty-First Century Threats

It may be that new threats have emerged, or the perception of new threats, such as terrorism and cybercrime. Zedner (2007, p. 262) says that “in important respects we are on the cusp of a shift from a post- to a pre-crime society” in which crime is understood as a risk leading requiring preemptive action. Governments and security firms have emphasized pre-crime logic in the wake of terrorist attacks in New York in 2001 and London in 2007. She recognizes the danger of exaggerating historical shifts, and this is good advice because in important respects, the situation she describes reflects a continuation rather than a break with the past.

Moss (2011) explores the development of burglary insurance from 1889 and the commodification of insecurity. Insurance companies offering burglary coverage used letter, newspaper, exhibition, and billboard advertising to define the risk of burglary victimization. Between 1890 and 1914, insurers inserted ads into a wide variety of national and local newspapers with references to “10 Burglaries in one district in 12 hours” and “thousands of burglars at large in Britain at any given time.” Visuals included items of domestic life no longer private: shattered bedroom mirror, open dresser drawers and ruffled nightgown. They employed “emotionally provocative, and contextually sensitive, language and visual devices to induce a rational response to actual and exaggerated reports of burglaries. Moss notes that this engendered a subtle shift toward the “what criminologists refer to as the risk society” engendered by technological and economic progress (Moss, 2011, p. 1044).

Churchill (2015) examines another aspect of the role of private industry in shaping social attitudes toward crime, lock-picking competitions. During the 1850s and 1860s, Chubb & Son, and other lock manufacturers, staged competitions to demonstrate the superiority of their designs. The competitions did not contribute directly to increased lock sales, although the security industry expanded in this period. Results of contests tended to be disputed, with no clear winners, and while most were public spectacles, a few were conducted in private, giving rise to suspicion regarding the fairness of the contest. The competitions received extensive commentary in the press, in part because they played into the public fascination with technology. This contributed to larger discussion shaping the public understanding of the threat of burglary and housebreaking. The competitions invoked rising concern over the emergence of a professional criminal as emphasis on the juvenile thief decreased. Churchill (2015, p. 17) notes the correlation between the rise the private security industry in this period and decline or lack of confidence in the public police. Property crime remained a menace despite the introduction of new (professional) forms of policing.

Worrying about cybercrime is at least as old as worrying about terrorism. Wall (2011) explains that much of the conceptual language of “cybercrime” originated in social science fiction of the 1970s and 1980s. This literature presented dystopic fantasies about life in cyberspace, and spawned a series of films about the power of hackers to disrupt people’s lives. He points out that the hacker narrative was itself neither new nor novel. The hacker character revived a character that originated in Victorian science fiction—that is, a person who constructs or appropriates technology in order to give them power over others. The novels of H. G. Wells, written during a time of tremendous advance in technology, described worlds empowered by, and threatened by, potentially dangerous technologies.

A Culture of Fear

We may be living in an age characterized by anxiety, fear, or insecurity. Simon (1997) described the ways in which crime became central to postmodern, postindustrial societies. Government encouraged a “culture of fear” in which concern about crime enter into the majority of major decisions in life. Mythen and Walklate (2006) discuss government use government has made use of the threat of terrorism and sought to harness wider public anxieties within the “risk society.”

But, how does the present time compare to the past? Smith (2012) examines household security in the 19th century, and particularly writing on situational crime prevention, which proliferated in a variety of settings. The literature of prevention, contained in popular magazines, suggested home owners had not done enough to protect their families and belongings, invoking anxiety and a self-help model. The discussion invoked themes associated with characteristics of late-modern, postindustrial society: decline of public confidence in public criminal justice seen and the sacrifice of social unity for the sake of personal safety. Homeowners not only hardened their homes but hardened their attitudes toward strangers (Smith, 2012, pp. 264–265). Smith (2012) also pointed to the role of humor. He discusses the one-act play, A Night at Notting Hill, which ran for more than a hundred performances at London’s Adelphi Theatre. The action follows the exaggerated actions of an alderman to protect his home and the failings and incompetence of the police in respondng to the threat. The play ridiculed the alarmist press and the government’s response to crime.

Or, to the interwar period when the League of Nations promoted the treat of international criminals? International crime emerged in the late 19th century when women’s groups, missionary societies, moral purity associations pressed governments to address the worldwide problems of white slave trade and drug smuggling. From the 1880s, journalists, clergy, and others circulated stories of girls trapped into prostitution: girls spirited away in cars, drugged with chocolates on trains and enticed by foreign men with offers of music hall careers. W. T. Stead became the alarmist-in-chief with his “Maiden Tribute” series in the Pall Mall Gazette on the underground trade in child sex slaves. The stories, including his firsthand account of purchasing a girl in London for £5, spread throughout the English newspapers from Canada to Singapore, India to New Zealand. His efforts led to organization of local vigilance societies, national legislation, and the first international agreements. When he died on the Titanic in 1912, his followers pushed through legislation through Parliament to impose whipping on white slave traffickers (Brake et al., 2012).

Following the Great War, these groups succeeded in adding these issues to the constitution of the League of Nations. The League assumed responsibility for international treaties agreed before the war. As early as 1921, when it became apparent that the League had failed as a political institution, League advocates pointed to the need to curb the worldwide threat of “trafficking” in women and narcotics. In 1923, the League’s Advisory Committee on the Traffic in Women investigated claims in American and European newspapers about trafficking in women on an industrial scale. The New York Evening Post reported the discovery of a plot to ship five hundred girls to the United States via Antwerp, Hamburg, and Rotterdam. Although the report turned out to be completely false, the Advisory Committee commissioned the first intercontinental study of the traffic, and the report of the inquiry, conducted by undercover investigators working in 112 cities in 28 countries, made newspaper headlines throughout the world. By 1928, the League’s effort had been carried on so intensely it became a joke. Decline and Fall, Evelyn Waugh’s first novel, is a comedic satire in which a League advocate unknowingly becomes the leader of an international white slave ring (Knepper, 2014).


Crime, media, and popular culture presents a vast history, much of it uncharted by criminologists. There has been enough historical research by specialists in literature, journalism history, film history, and other fields to indicate the value of history to criminological analysis of media and popular culture.

Historical research into literature, the press, film, radio, and television offers a series of insights.

  • The present generation is not in a unique position in confronting blurred images of fact and fiction; the “public” has been trying to make sense of this for several centuries. Examples include forensic technology and criminal trials on radio.

  • Media impact on policy has taken place continuously, from delay of abolition of the death penalty to legislation to stop the traffic in women.

  • A process of Americanization, in which the United States shares its “high crime” culture with other nations, can be seen in the early 20th century.

  • The use of fear and anxiety to promote public or private agendas is not sustainable. There public appears to be a saturation point, beyond which alarmist messages are converted into a joke. Household security and the white slave traffic are two examples.

Are we entering a new era of history when media and popular culture are more important than ever before in crime and the response to crime? Criminological analyses extend back to the 1970s, or as back as to the postwar era, to make predictions about an emerging age. But this is not far enough. The advantage of historical research is that it can extend beyond living memory. That said, the response is not as simple as the greater historical understanding we achieve, the better. Ordinarily, the more knowledge we possess, the easier it is to form a theory. But the paradox of historical research is that the more we know about the past, the more difficult it becomes to say what is new or novel about our own time.

Review of the Literature

The popular culture of crime became a topic for historical research in the wake of the “cultural turn” in the social sciences and humanities during the 1980s. No one had more influence on historical criminology than Michel Foucault, who perceived culture as a medium of power and expanded the kinds sources used for exploring the past. Marie-Christine Leps’s Apprehending the Criminal, Ann-Louise Shapiro’s Breaking the Codes, and Lizzie Seal’s Women, Murder and Femininity examine “discourses” about crime in the press, literature, and other sources. At the end of the day, however, Foucault relied on (an imaginative reading) of documents from archives, the traditional basis for historical research. Material culture, once written off as “pots and pans” history, is an emerging area within historical study of crime. Studies of crime museums, police museums, and former prisons as tourist sites have started to appear, changing the way we think about the development of criminology, the role of punishment in society, and other things. Jaqueline Z. Wilson’s Prison: Cultural Memory and Dark Tourism and Michell Brown’s The Culture of Punishment: Prison, Society and Spectacle.

There has been a great deal of historical interest in the press during the 19th century, perhaps because dealing with newspapers is familiar territory to historians accustomed to working with documentary evidence. The digitized collections of newspapers, now available at the British Library News Archives in London, for example, has made this easier. But of course, the continuing interest in the Whitechapel murders of the 1880s and the historical context of the Sherlock Holmes stories has driven this in the Victorian era as well. For Britain, there is Judith Flanders’s The Invention of Murder, a substantial reporting of names and dates from primary materials available for Britain, and Pete King’s articles that provide useful conceptual analysis of crime news. For the United States, see Amy Gilman Srebnick, The Mysterious Death of Mary Rogers, and Daniel Stashower’s The Beautiful Cigar Girl. Daniel Vyleta’s Crime, Jews and News deals with Vienna, and the edited collection by Robert Buffington and Pablo Piccato, True Stories of Crime, with Mexico.

Compared to the Victorian era, the interwar period has been neglected. Nicole Rafter referred to the 1920s and 1930s and the “lost decades” in historical criminology given historians interest in the decades before the First World War and criminologists’ focus on the decades after the Second World War. Some research has started to appear, particularly dealing with the press and other printed materials. Gayle Brunelle and Annette Finley-Crosswhite’s Murder in the Metro analyzes a sensational murder case in France, Todd Herzog’s Crime Stories examines the relationship between crime fiction and social attitudes in Germany, and John Carter Wood’s The Most Remarkable Woman in England analyzes murder, gender, and celebrity in Britain.

For early media history—crime in literature, film, radio, and television—criminologists must rely on work by specialists in these fields. Literary analyses of the crime genre are abundant; there is an Oxford Companion to Crime and Mystery Writing, edited by Rosemary Herbert, and a Cambridge Companion to Crime Fiction, edited by Martin Priestman. There are histories of film, such as David Ruth’s Inventing the Public Enemy and Jonathan Munby’s Public Enemies, Public Heroes, which cover the gangster era. Less has been written about the radio and television. Content analyses of this material can be found, but this is not the same thing as historical research. Historical analyses not only review the content, but additional material about the production process, the impact at the time, and wider social and cultural context. See, for example, Elena Razlogova’s article on “true crime radio” in American Quarterly.

To really explore the history of crime, media, and popular culture, it is necessary to explore the expanding variety digital archives. For a good introduction to digital sources, and advice on how they can be developed, see Barry Godfrey’s chapter, “The Crime Historian’s Modi Operandi,” in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Crime and Criminal Justice, edited by Paul Knepper and Anja Johansen.

Further Reading

Brunelle, G., & Finley-Croswhite, A. (2010). Murder in the metro: Laetitia Toureaux and the Cagoule in 1930s France. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.Find this resource:

Cavender, G., & Fishman M. (1998). Television reality crime programs: Context and history. In M. Fishman & G. Cavender (Eds.), Entertaining crime: Television reality programs (pp. 3–16). New York: Aldine de Gruyter.Find this resource:

Critcher, C. (2009). In the frame: 20th century discourses about representations of crime in fictional media. In P. Knepper, J. Doak, & J. Shapland (Eds.), Urban Crime Prevention, surveillance and restorative justice: Effects of social technologies (pp. 55–75). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.Find this resource:

Herzog, T. (2009). Crime Stories: Criminalistic fantasy and the culture of crisis in Weimar Germany. Brooklyn, NY: Berghahn.Find this resource:

Kohn, M. (2001). Dope girls: The birth of the British drug underground. London: Granta.Find this resource:

Priestman, M. (2003). The Cambridge companion to crime fiction. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.Find this resource:

Rowbotham, J., Stevenson, K., & Pegg, S. (Eds.). (2013). Crime news in modern Britain: Press reporting and responsibility, 1820–2010. London: Palgrave Macmillan.Find this resource:

Siemens, D. (2009). Explaining crime: Berlin newspapers and the construction of the criminal in Weimar Germany. Journal of European Studies, 39, 336–352.Find this resource:

Vyleta, D. M. (2007). Crime, Jews and news: Vienna 1785–1914. Brooklyn, NY: Berghahn.Find this resource:

Wood, J. C. (2016). Crime news and the press. In P. Knepper & A. Johansen (Eds.). The Oxford handbook of the history of crime and criminal justice (pp. 301–319). New York: Oxford University Press.Find this resource:


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Doherty, T. (1998). Frank Costello’s hands: Film, television, and the Kefauver crime hearings. Film History, 10, 359–374.Find this resource:

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