79-331 Crime & Punishment in American History
Department of History

               Carnegie Mellon University                                                        Instructor: David Wolcott, Ph.D.

               Fall 2000                                                                                 Office: Baker Hall 240F

               Credit: 9.0 Units                                                                       Office phone: 412-268-6871

               Meetings: MWF, 9:30 - 10:20                                                    Office Hours: MW, 11:00 - 12:00

               Location: Baker Hall 235A                                                         Email: dw4m@andrew.cmu.edu

                 Expectations      Policies       Reserve Readings          Calendar             Home


Crime and punishment are among the most important issues in contemporary America. This course offers an introduction to the historical study of crime in the United States and highlights both changes in criminal behavior and the different ways that Americans have sought to deter, punish, and rehabilitate. Primary topics include historical patterns of violence, the role and organization of the police, and the evolution of punishment in theory and practice. This course also emphasizes differences in crime and punishment by race, gender, and age.

Course Objectives:

As a result of taking this course, students should be able

Demonstrate knowledge of the historical development of crime and criminal justice.

Identify trends in the definition, cultural context, and social response to crime.

Place historical patterns of crime and criminal justice within the context of US history.

Analyze contemporary public issues related to crime in historical context.

Expectations                                                                                                                                             Top        Home

The course will be taught by a combination of discussion and lecture. This design requires active learning on your part. The assignments have been designed to help you to engage with the material and to evaluate your learning on that basis.

A. Participation and attendance

Class meets every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday between 9:30 and 10:20 AM in Baker Hall 235A (unless otherwise noted). You are expected to attend class regularly and on time, to read the material assigned before class, and to participate in discussion in a frequent and substantive manner. You should involve yourselves in class discussion by asking questions, participating in group activities, and contributing your thoughts, interpretations, and ideas.

Obviously, you need to attend class in order to participate. Attendance will be recorded. You will be allowed three absences; subsequent absences will result in the loss of one-third of a letter grade from the "participation" grade for each day missed.

B. "Working Papers"

"Working papers" are intended to help you assimilate what you have read. They should be a rough outline of the key ideas and arguments in the reading for the day that papers are due. Working papers should include the following: (1) descriptions of three key ideas from the assigned reading; (2) a description of at least one source of evidence; (3) and at least two questions about the reading are worth discussing or statements of your response to the reading. These papers should be absolutely be no longer than one page (with a normal font and margins); it is more productive to explain a few ideas well than a lot of ideas poorly. I will write a working paper based on an early reading so that you will have an example to follow.

B. Papers

This course includes two papers, due on September 22 and November 20. You will be asked to answer a thematic question (on topics that will be assigned at least three class sessions before the paper is due) in between 4 and 5 pages. You are expected to base these papers on classroom lectures, discussions, and reading assignments; no extra research is necessary. This paper should make an historical argument, must have a clear thesis statement, and must use evidence to support that thesis. What is an historical argument? Historical arguments are well-defended, original interpretations of historical events based upon evidence. Its not easy to make your own historical argument; this course will give you practice doing so.

Papers will be due in my mailbox in Baker 240 by 5:00 PM on the dates assigned. For late papers, one letter grade will be deducted for each weekday that they are late. Papers are to be typed, proofread, and double-spaced in a 12-point font.

Paper 1 Topic                      Paper 2 Topic

D. Exams

This course will have an in-class midterm exam on October 18 and a final exam on a date to be determined by the registrar. The exams will be in essay format.

Midterm Preview                Final Exam Preview

Course Policies                                                                                                                                            Top        Home

A. Grading

I do all the grading for this course. Please feel free to come to office and discus any question concerning grading that you might have. I grade on a point system; even if I put a "letter" grade on your papers, I will indicate how many point out of the total for that assignment you have earned. At the end of the term, total point out of 100 will be translated into letter grades as follows: 90 to 100 = A; 80 to 89 = B; etc.

Grades will be distributed in the following way:

Attendance & participation        5%
Working papers                         10%
Paper 1                                      20%
Paper 2                                      20%
Midterm Exam                          20%
Final Exam                                25%

B. Classroom Behavior.

This course is designed to encourage students to develop arguments and interpretations concerning history and criminal justice. Therefore, it is important that all members of the class feel that they can come to class and express their ideas in a free and accepting environment. Any actions that might tend to limit that freedom of expression is discouraged. Please be considerate of your fellow classmates.

C. Academic Integrity

I expect all students to uphold the highest standards of academic integrity. Any violations of university policies regarding cheating or plagiarism, as outlined in the Student Handbook, will not be tolerated.

D. Alternative Arrangements

The Office of Equal Opportunity Services provides support services for both physically disabled and learning disabled students. For individualized academic adjustment based on a documented disability, contact Equal Opportunity Services at eos@andrew.cmu.edu or (412) 268-2012.

Course Materials

I. Required readings available for purchase at Carnegie Mellon Bookstore

David T. Courtwright. Violent Land: Single Men and Social Disorder from the Frontier to the Inner City. Cambridge, Ma.: Harvard University Press, 1996. ISBN 0674278712.

Samuel Walker. Popular Justice: A History of American Criminal Justice, 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. ISBN 0195074513.

Timothy J. Gilfoyle. City of Eros: New York City, Prostitution, and the Commercialization of Sex, 1790-1920. NY: WW Norton, 1992. ISBN 0393311082.

Alexander W. Pisciotta. Benevolent Repression: Social Control and the American Reformatory-Prison Movement. NY: New York University Press, 1994. ISBN 0814766382.

Gilbert Geis and Leigh B. Bienen. Crimes of the Century: From Leopold and Loeb to O.J. Simpson. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1998. ISBN 1555534279.

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II. Required readings available as photocopies on reserve at Hunt Library Circulation Desk [call numbers in brackets]

Jeffrey S. Adler, "My Mother-in-Law Is to Blame, But Ill Walk on Her Neck Yet: Homicide in Late Nineteenth-Century Chicago." Journal of Social History 31 (Winter 1997): 253-276.
[PH Wolcott - 60]

Hendrik Hartog, "Lawyering, Husbands' Rights, and the Unwritten Law in Nineteenth-Century America," Journal of American History 84 (June 1997): 67-96.
[PH Wolcott - 33]

L. Mara Dodge, "One Female Prisoner is of More Trouble than Twenty Males: Women Convicts in Illinois Prisons, 1835-1896," Journal of Social History 32 (Summer 1999): 907-930.
[PH Wolcott - 47]

Ben B. Lindsey, "The Boy and the Court: The Colorado Law and Its Administration," Charities 13 (7 January 1905): 350-357.
[PH Wolcott - 45]

Steven Schlossman & Susan Turner, "Status Offenders, Criminal Offenders, and Children At Risk in Early Twentieth-Century Juvenile Court," in Roberta Wollons, ed., Children at Risk in America: History, Concepts, and Public Policy (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993), 32-57.
[PH Wolcott - 41]

Eric Schlosser, "The Prison-Industrial Complex," The Atlantic Monthly 282 (December 1998), 51-78.
[PH Wolcott - 44]

Leete, Hon. John B. "Treatment and Rehabilitation or Hard Time: Is the Focus of Juvenile Justice Changing?" Akron Law Review 29 (Spring 1996): 491-508.
[PH Wolcott - 48]

CALENDAR                                                                                                                                                   Top        Home

Part I - The Origins of American Justice

Monday, August 28 - Introduction

Wednesday, August 30 - What Questions Do We Ask in the History of Crime?
Reading: Walker, Popular Justice, 1-10

Friday, September 1 - Colonial Crime & Punishment
Reading: Walker, Popular Justice, 13-37

Monday, September 4 - No Class; Labor Day

Wednesday, September 6 - The Humanitarian Movement in Early-Republic America
Reading: Walker, Popular Justice, 37-46

Friday, September 8 - The Birth of the Police
Reading: Walker, Popular Justice, 47-79

Part II - Crime in America

Monday, September 11 - Vice in the Early-19th Century City
Reading: Gilfoyle, City of Eros, 17-75
Working Paper 1 due

Wednesday, September 13 - The "Sporting Male" Sub-Culture
Reading: Gilfoyle, City of Eros, 76-116

Friday, September 15 - The Nineteenth-Century Law and Masculinity
Reading: Reading: Hartog, "Lawyering, Husbands Rights, & Unwritten Law" (RESERVE)
Optional reading: Gilfoyle, City of Eros, 117-178

Monday, September 18 - Moral Reform & the Victorian Underworld
Reading: Gilfoyle, City of Eros, 181-250

Wednesday, September 20 - Decline of Brothel Prostitution
Reading: Gilfoyle, City of Eros, 251-315

Friday, September 22 - Lecture: Firearms in the 18th and 19th Centuries
Paper 1 due

Monday, September 25 - The History of Violence: Theoretical Considerations
Reading: Courtwright, Violent Land, 1-46

Wednesday, September 27 - Gender and Violence on the Frontier
Reading: Courtwright, Violent Land, 47-86

Friday, September 29 - Cowboys and Indians
Reading: Courtwright, Violent Land, 87-151

Monday, October 2 - Violence and Migration in Late Nineteenth Century
Reading: Courtwright, Violent Land, 152-197

Wednesday, October 4 - A More Orderly Urban Society
Reading: Adler, "My Mother-in-Law Is to Blame " (RESERVE)
Working Paper 2 due

Friday, October 6 - The Twentieth-Century Decline of Violent Crime
Reading: Courtwright, Violent Land, 198-224

Monday, October 9 - "Everything Went to Hell in the 1960s"
Reading: Courtwright, Violent Land, 225-246

Wednesday, October 11 - Contemporary Urban Violence
Reading: Courtwright, Violent Land, 247-280

Friday, October 13 - Murders in Pittsburgh, 1998
Reading: HANDOUT-- "Allegheny County Homicides, 1998," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Monday, October 16 - Has Violent Crime Declined?
Reading: HANDOUT -- selected recent articles

Wednesday, October 18 - Midterm Exam

Friday, October 20, and Monday, October 23 - No class; mid-semester break

Part III - Criminal Justice and Popular Responses to Crime

Wednesday, October 25 - The Birth of the Prison
Reading: Walker, Popular Justice, 80-111

Friday, October 27 - The Prison as a Reformatory
Reading: Pisciotta, Benevolent Repression, 1-59

Monday, October 30 - The Experience of Prisoners & the Spread of Scientific Penology
Reading: Pisciotta, Benevolent Repression, 60-103

Wednesday, November 1 - Analysis Exercise: New Historical Approach to Prisons
Reading: Dodge, "One Female Prisoner " (RESERVE)
Working Paper 2 due

Friday, November 3 - Progressive Reform
Reading: Walker, Popular Justice, 112-144

Monday, November 6 - Eugenics in the Prisons
Reading: Pisciotta, Benevolent Repression, 104-156

Wednesday, November 8 - Juvenile Court in Theory & Practice
Reading: Lindsey, "The Boy and the Court" (RESERVE)
        Schlossman & Turner, "Status Offenders, Criminal Offenders " (RESERVE)
Working Paper 3 due

Friday, November 10 - The First "War on Crime": 1920s and 1930s
Reading: Walker, Popular Justice, 145-167

Monday, November 13 - The Leopold & Loeb Case and Theories of Crime
Reading: Geis & Bienen, Crimes of the Century, 13-48

Wednesday, November 15 - The Lindbergh Kidnapping
Reading: Geis & Bienen, Crimes of the Century, 89-126

Friday, November 17 - The Scottsboro "Boys" and Racial Injustice
Reading: Geis & Bienen, Crimes of the Century, 49-88

Monday, November 20 - Lecture:  The Post-World War II "Delinquency Scare"
Paper 2 due

Wednesday, November 22, and Friday, November 24 - No class; Thanksgiving

Monday, November 27 - Professionalization & Reform of Criminal Justice
Reading: Walker, Popular Justice, 167-179, 193-210

Wednesday, November 29 - Judicial Revolution & Institutional Reform
Reading: Walker, Popular Justice, 180-193, 232-239

Friday, December 1 - Getting Tough on Crime
Reading: Walker, Popular Justice, 211-231, 239-243

Monday, December 4 - The Prison-Industrial Complex
Reading: Schlosser, "The Prison-Industrial Complex," 51-78 (RESERVE)
Working Paper 4 due

Wednesday, December 6 - Modern Juvenile Justice
Reading: Leete, "Treatment and Rehabilitation or Hard Time." (RESERVE)

Friday, December 8 - O.J. Simpson: Race, Money, & Criminal Justice
Reading: Geis & Bienen, Crimes of the Century, 169-204

Monday, December 11 - The Death Penalty in Modern America
Reading: Walker, Popular Justice, 189-191, 225-227
        HANDOUT -- selected recent articles

Date to be announced by Registrar
Final Exam                                                                                                                                                    Top        Home