Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Two Foundational Texts in Modern Criminal Law

William Blackstone
Just up on SSRN are prepublication drafts of two chapters in the forthcoming Foundational Texts in Modern Criminal Law, ed. Markus Dubber (Oxford University Press).  Simon Stern, University of Toronto Faculty of Law, has posted William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, Vol. 4 (1769):
This book chapter discusses the fourth volume of Blackstone's Commentaries (1769), asking what contribution this volume makes to English criminal law. Issues addressed include the general structure of Blackstone's discussion, the relation between Blackstone's treatment and those of his precursors (especially Sir Matthew Hale and William Hawkins), the historical and literary range of Blackstone's references, the nature of his legal reform agenda, and his conception of the book's audience.
Bernard E. Harcourt, University of Chicago Law School, has posted Beccaria's 'On Crimes and Punishments': A Mirror on the History of the Foundations of Modern Criminal Law:
Cesare Beccaria
Beccaria’s treatise "On Crimes and Punishments" (1764) has become a placeholder for the classical school of thought in criminology, for deterrence-based public policy, for death penalty abolitionism, and for liberal ideals of legality and the rule of law. A source of inspiration for Bentham and Blackstone, an object of praise for Voltaire and the Philosophies, a target of pointed critiques by Kant and Hegel, the subject of a genealogy by Foucault, the object of derision by the Physiocrats, rehabilitated and appropriated by the Chicago School of law and economics — these ricochets and reflections on Beccaria’s treatise reveal multiple dimensions of Beccaria’s work and provide an outline of a history of the foundations of modern criminal law. In becoming a classic text that has been so widely and varyingly cited, though perhaps little read today, "On Crimes and Punishments" may be used as a mirror on the key projects over the past two centuries and a half in the domain of penal law and punishment theory — and this essay hopes to contribute, in a small way, to such an endeavor. In the end, we may learn as much about those who have appropriated and used Beccaria than we would about Beccaria himself — perhaps more.

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