Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Crime & Punishment in Historical Perspective
Academic Year
Semester 2
Exclusive (Any Acad Year)
Exclusive (Any Acad Year)
Reading List
Other Staff

Course Delivery



Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Essay  2000 Words  50%
Semester Exam 2 Hours   Seen Exam  This is a seen examination  50%
Supplementary Assessment Essay  2000 Words  50%
Supplementary Exam 2 Hours   Supplementary Seen Exam  50%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. ​Demonstrate a sound critical awareness and understanding of the impact of social change on issues relating to crime, crime control and punishment.

2. Demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of historical and comparative issues in the development of criminal justice policies, processes and institutions.

3. Assess the value of historiographical approaches in developing an understanding of contemporary issues relating to crime and criminal justice.

4. Identify and explain different ways in which criminal justice systems and processes have undergone social, political and legal transformation; interpret how these transformations have impacted contemporary policies, practices and debates.

5. Identify and critically consider the limitations of available primary sources relating to the various historical periods addressed over the course of the module.

6. Demonstrate a sound knowledge of the principles underlying criminal justice approaches during each of the historical periods addressed over the course of the module.

Brief description

This module does not seek to provide a comprehensive description of developments within the criminal law or the penal system. Rather, it seeks to engage with a range of questions with continuing relevance across a variety of historical epochs:
What types of behaviour are classed as criminal, and why?
What methods of punishment are considered appropriate, and why?
What factors precipitate penal change?
How are the interests of the victim of crime and those of the wider community reconciled?

Some other questions will arise which will inform our capacity to answer such questions:
How do we know how much crime there was in the past?
How can we tell what people thought about it?
Where can we look for information and what are the limitations upon that information?

Students will have the opportunity to study a variety of historical perspectives on crime and punishment. Students will be encouraged to develop an increased awareness of continuity and fluctuations in criminal justice systems, as well as other societal responses to crime and social change.


​​The lecture and seminar series’ will explore a variety of criminological, criminal justice and historiographical themes and topics through the lens of a series of historical periods:

  • Crime and Punishment in the Ancient World
  • Crime and Punishment in the Middle Ages
  • Crime and Punishment in the Early Modern Period
  • Crime and Punishment in the Victorian Era

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number Through the critical analysis of research findings students will develop an appreciation of how theory and practice merge within a historical setting.
Communication Oral communication will be encouraged in seminar discussion, group work conducted in the seminar series, and over the course of the fieldwork exercise. Written communication will be developed and assessed within the coursework.
Improving own Learning and Performance Interactive lectures and seminars will encourage the critical and lateral thinking of students. Tasks and exercises set in seminars will facilitate the learning of abstract concepts and application of these to real life settings. The essay assignment will develop organisational skills and encourage students to reflect on the learning and teaching of the module content in a progressive manner.
Information Technology Searches of on-line electronic databases and journals will provide practice in IT skills. The core module content and lecture handouts will be made available on Blackboard.
Personal Development and Career planning ​​Independent study in preparation for lectures and seminars will develop autonomy in student’s learning. Group work and will equip students with the communication skills to engage with others in the work place. The preparation and necessary engagement with the course for the reflective assignment will encourage students to attend all lectures and seminars and actively participate in the tasks.
Problem solving Students will have to consider a wide range of historical issues relating to crime, punishment and criminal justice processes. This will enhance and develop problem solving skills and critical analysis.
Research skills Research skills will be developed by accessing and analysing literature on crime and punishment in order to prepare and complete the assessed work.
Subject Specific Skills Students will develop reflective skills and will also be actively encouraged to think critically about the relevance of historical trends in crime and punishment to modern society and criminal justice processes.
Team work Small group work within seminars will foster team working and develop knowledge exchange between students and tutors. The fieldwork activities will further develop students’ capacity for collaborative work.


This module is at CQFW Level 6