1st Edition

The Routledge History of Crime in America

Edited By James Campbell, Vivien Miller Copyright 2025
    480 Pages 42 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Covering a broad chronology from the colonial era to the present, this volume’s 28 chapters reflect the diverse approaches, interests and findings of an international group of new and established scholars working on American crime histories today. 

    The book is organized around major themes in crime history, including violence, science and technology, culture, gender and organized crime, and it addresses pressing contemporary concerns such as mass incarceration and the racial politics of crime in modern America.  It also engages with the history of crime literature, film and popular culture from colonial execution sermons to true crime television in the twenty-first century.  The volume is alert to continuities and diversity over time and place in the history of American crime, notably in chapters on the South, the West and the impact of urbanization on practices and ideas about crime and law enforcement in different periods of the American past.

    The Routledge History of Crime in America is an indispensable, interdisciplinary resource for students and researchers working in areas of crime, crime policy, punishment, policing, and incarceration.


    James M. Campbell and Vivien Miller 

    Part 1: Major Themes in American Crime History

    1. Defining, Recording, and Measuring Crime in the United States from Colonial Times to the Present

    Randolph Roth

    2. Theories of Crime in American History

    Paul Knepper

    3. Crime and Popular Culture in American History

    Justin Gifford

    4. Policing Crime in American History

    Brandon T. Jett

    5. Innovation, Continuity, Recycling and Technological Transformation: Punishment in America

    Vivien Miller

    Part 2: Crime and American Culture

    6. Transatlantic Felony: Convict Transportation and Representations of Criminality in the British American Colonies

    Matthew Pethers

    7. Depictions of Crime in American Cinema, 1903-1936

    Nick Heffernan

    8. Crime, Popular Culture, and the Media in the 21st Century

    Lindsay Steenberg and Simon McFadden

    Part 3: Histories of American Violence

    9. “The Penalty of a Tyrant’s Law”: Slavery and Crime in the Nineteenth Century American South

    James M. Campbell

    10. Crime and Punishment in a 19th Century Western Community

    Michael Alarid

    11. “The American City is becoming a Menace to State and Nation”: Urban Crime in the Age of Jim Crow and Mass Immigration

    Jeffrey S. Adler

    12. American Serial Killers

    Bernice M. Murphy

    Part 4: Class, Gender and Crime in the Long Nineteenth Century

    13. “Relieving the city from beggars and the poor”: The Criminalization of Poverty and Mobility in the Long Nineteenth Century

    Kristin O’Brassill-Kulfan

    14. Gender and Crime in the Long Nineteenth Century

    Felicity Turner

    15. White Collar Crime in the Long Nineteenth Century

    Bruce E. Baker

    Part 5: Organized Crime

    16. Pirates and Piracy in Colonial America and the Atlantic World

    Rebecca Simon

    17. Organised Crime and Race in the US, 1865-1941

    Kristoffer Allerfeldt

    18. “Wicked” and “Sham”: The evolution of “organized crime” and Its Control in the United States, 1929-Present

    Michael Woodiwiss

    19. Women and Organised Crime

    Emily Green

    Part 6: Crime and Policing

    20. State Building, Settler Colonialism, and Policing the Nineteenth Century American West

    Jonathan Obert

    21. Federal Crimes and Policing in the Early-Twentieth Century

    Jessica R. Pliley

    22. Race, Crime, and Policing in the United States from the War on Crime to the War on Drugs

    Max Felker-Kantor

    Part 7: Science, Technology and Crime

    23. Scientific Knowledge and Crime in Nineteenth-Century America

    Courtney E. Thompson

    24. Crime Scene Photography in the Twentieth Century

    Catriona Byers

    Part 8: Crime and Punishment

    25. Penal Reform in the Early United States

    Ashley T. Rubin

    26. Capital Crimes and the Death Penalty, 1860-1960

    Seth Kotch

    Part 9: Crime, Politics and Governance since the 1960s

    27. Conflict or Consensus? The Politicization of Law and Order in the United States since 1960

    Joe Merton

    28. Governing Through Crime in the 21st Century

    Sarah DiMagno and Jonathan Simon


    James Campbell is Associate Professor of American History at the University of Leicester, UK.  He has published on histories of crime, punishment and law in the United States, Jamaica and the British Empire and is currently working on the history of the death penalty and its abolition in Britain’s last colonies.

    Vivien Miller is Professor of American History at the University of Nottingham, UK. Her publications cover murder, rape, kidnapping, fraud, theft, convict leasing, chain gangs, prisons, capital punishment, organized crime and racetrack corruption. She is currently working on the history of acid crime in the urban-industrial United States.