Causes of Crime

Causes of Crime from c.500 to Middle Ages

  • Societal conditions, such as poverty, could often result in desperate crimes like theft.
  • Lack of structure and laws could create an environment conducive for criminal activities.
  • Religious beliefs, morality, and superstitions sometimes led to accusations of witchcraft and heresy.

Causes of Crime from the Middle Ages to the Early Modern Period

  • Feudal tensions could result in various high-level crimes, including treason.
  • Emergence of widespread religious and political dissent such as the Reformation and the English Civil War led to more crimes.
  • Economic instability and hardship prompted by plague and famine resulted in increased incidence of theft and rebellion.

Causes of Crime from the Late Modern Period to the Present

  • Industrialisation and urbanisation led to new forms of crime such as industrial sabotage and organised crime.
  • Counterfeit coin production emerged due to growth in trade and commerce.
  • Dysfunction in society during the World Wars spurred on related crimes such as black marketeering and desertion.

Key Themes Across Periods

  • Socio-economic conditions, such as poverty and social inequality, persistently contribute to crime rates.
  • Shifts in political landscapes often give rise to new definitions and forms of criminal behaviour.
  • Technological development at every age brings with it unique opportunities for crime, from counterfeiting in the past to cybercrime in the present.
  • Changes in societal values and beliefs, particularly religious beliefs, can lead to activities being labelled as criminal.
  • Lack of education and awareness about laws and their consequences make individuals more prone to committing crimes.

Understanding Individual Motivation

  • In addition to societal factors, individual motivations and circumstances also contribute to crime.
  • Peer pressure, the desire for peer acceptance, and need for social identity can lead individuals to commit crimes.
  • Emotional and psychological drivers, such as lack of empathy, greed, and propensity for risk-taking also play significant roles in motivating individuals to commit crimes.
  • Substance abuse and addiction also contribute to crime rates, through both the act of procuring substances illegally and the behaviours induced by these substances.