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Societal change and individual past in connection with crime: demographic perspectives on young people arrested in Northern Sweden in the Nineteenth Century
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Historical Studies. (Centrum för befolkningsstudier)
2008 (English)In: Continuity and Change, ISSN 0268-4160, E-ISSN 1469-218X, Vol. 23, no 2, 331-361 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Little is known about the lives of criminal offenders prior to their incarceration in past time. Knowing the background of offenders, however, may explain why they broke the law. This article explores young offenders in the Sundsvall region of Sweden, 400 kilometres north of Stockholm, an area with a booming sawmill-based economy in nineteenth-century Sweden. First, using prison registers, large-scale structural concepts are employed to explain the increasing number of incarcerations of young people reported during the period 1840–1880. Second, to uncover the offenders' demographic backgrounds and their socio-economic circumstances when arrested, they are identified in Swedish parish registers digitized by the Demographic Data Base (DDB) at Umeå University. These sources permit the application of retrospective life-course perspectives that are increasingly applied in modern criminology. These perspectives show that offenders were not primarily migrants or of poor origin, but that they frequently came from the region. Thus their parents were often also present in the community. In providing informal social control these characteristics – being local and having at least one parent nearby – are thought to lead to lower levels of criminality and imprisonment, but they were of little effect in preventing crime or incarceration. This study thus challenges the view of the criminal in past time as a lone individual arrested in an unfamiliar settings. Among the few female offenders observed, however, these factors were more typical; although gender accounts for low levels of criminality, their isolation and poverty did lead some women to theft.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press , 2008. Vol. 23, no 2, 331-361 p.
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URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-19459DOI: 10.1017/S0268416008006814OAI: diva2:201816
Available from: 2009-03-05 Created: 2009-03-05 Last updated: 2011-06-20Bibliographically approved

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Vikström, Lotta
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Historical Studies
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