Leicester historian asks 'Why are some societies more murderous than others?'
Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 27 April 2012
Can the study of murder rates in societies through history explain the emergence of violent, no-go areas in cities today?
Professor Peter King aims to explain the factors behind high homicide rates in his inaugural lecture Homicidal crime across space and time. Why are some societies so much more murderous than others?.
Professor King, of the University of Leicester's School of Historical Studies, will chart the prevalence of murder in Medieval and Early Modern Europe, in England and Scotland in the 19th century and in 20th century America as well as world homicide rates in the 21st century.
He will explain how modernisation in the early 19th century caused rapidly urbanising areas such as Glasgow to gain murder rates up to six times higher than rural parts.
The lecture will also identify key factors which Professor King believes cause high murder rates, including:
• The oppression of racial and national minorities.
• The survival of vendetta.
• The level and nature of state intervention.
• The disruptions that result from large-scale in-migration into rapidly growing cities or industrialising areas.
Professor King said: "The subject is important for a number of reasons - partly because it affects everything we do. Even in early 21st century Britain there are violent estates it would be unwise to venture into at certain times of day. In many societies, knowledge of the danger of being attacked or murdered in certain places and spaces is vital to survival on an everyday basis.
"More broadly, if we are to have less violent societies we must understand what produces them. History here is the best laboratory we have along with the study of contemporary differences in homicide rates. Homicide rates are only a proxy guide to levels of violence, of course, but they are the best we have and they can be very revealing as I hope to show."
The lecture will be held on May 8 from 5.30pm in Lecture Theatre 1 in the Ken Edwards Building, University of Leicester, and is free and open to the public.
Notes: For more information, please contact Professor Peter King at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0116 252 2760.
Report by Mark Cardwell