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Translated and with a new introduction by Mary Gibson, Nicole Hahn Rafter

Cesare Lombroso is widely considered the founder of criminology. His theory of the “born” criminal dominated European and American thinking about the causes of criminal behavior during the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth. This volume offers English-language readers the first critical, scholarly translation of Lombroso’s Criminal Man, one of the most famous criminological treatises ever written. The text laid the groundwork for subsequent biological theories of crime, including contemporary genetic explanations.
Originally published in 1876, Criminal Man went through five editions during Lombroso’s lifetime. In each edition Lombroso expanded on his ideas about innate criminality and refined his method for categorizing criminal behavior. In this new translation, Mary Gibson and Nicole Hahn Rafter bring together for the first time excerpts from all five editions in order to represent the development of Lombroso’s thought and his positivistic approach to understanding criminal behavior.

In Criminal Man, Lombroso used modern Darwinian evolutionary theories to “prove” the inferiority of criminals to “honest” people, of women to men, and of blacks to whites, thereby reinforcing the prevailing politics of sexual and racial hierarchy. He was particularly interested in the physical attributes of criminals—the size of their skulls, the shape of their noses—but he also studied the criminals’ various forms of self-expression, such as letters, graffiti, drawings, and tattoos. This volume includes more than forty of Lombroso’s illustrations of the criminal body along with several photographs of his personal collection. Designed to be useful for scholars and to introduce students to Lombroso’s thought, the volume also includes an extensive introduction, notes, appendices, a glossary, and an index.
Duke University Press
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Criminal Woman,
the Prostitute, and the Normal Woman
by Cesare Lombroso and Guglielmo Ferrero
translated and with a new introduction by
Nicole Hahn Rafter and Mary Gibson
‘‘[Lombroso’s] still-relevant works haunt contemporary ideas of criminality and jurisprudence. Current debates over the biology of mind
versus the role of environment ably show that we haven’t resolved
the nature-nurture fray Lombroso entered—nor do we actually know
much more about what makes a criminal than he did. Although maybe
we doubt it has quite so much to do with the mandible.’’—a l e x i s
sol osk i, Village Voice
‘‘Criminal Woman, the Prostitute, and the Normal Woman is a major
publishing landmark in criminology. Nicole Hahn Rafter and Mary
Gibson have achieved a remarkable feat in translating this pivotal work
and presenting it for scholars to study in a well-edited text. It gives
new insights into positivism and the history of the subject. It will be
required reading for anyone interested in developments in the field.
It may even lead to new evaluations of Lombroso’s contribution, not
least by feminist scholars.’’—f r a n c e s h e i d e n s o h n , coauthor of
Gender and Policing: Comparative Perspectives
‘‘Cesare Lombroso created the field of criminology, but there has been
a lack of available textbooks making his arguments accessible to
today’s students of history, law, and sociology. This volume fills that
void. Offering work previously not translated along with a scholarly
introduction and new visual evidence, it reveals Lombroso’s argument
without distorting the peculiar and genuinely contradictory character of his reasoning.’’—p e t e r b e c k e r , coeditor of Criminals and
Their Scientists: The History of Criminology in International Perspective

Criminal Man

Cesare Lombroso

Criminal Man
t r a n s l at e d a n d w i t h a n e w i n t r o d u c t i o n

by Mary Gibson and Nicole Hahn Rafter
with translation assistance from Mark Seymour

duke university press
Durham and London

2nd printing, 2007
© ; 2006 Mary Gibson and
Nicole Hahn Rafter
All rights reserved.
Printed in the United States of
America on acid-free paper
Designed by
C. H. Westmoreland
Typeset in Carter & Cohn
Galliard with Univers display
by Tseng Information
Systems, Inc.
Library of Congress
Data appear on the last printed
page of this book.

Mary Gibson dedicates her
share in this book to Jim Cohen for
his love, friendship, and humor.

Nicole Rafter dedicates her
share in this book to her dear friend
Frances Heidensohn, who has helped
so greatly with this project and
many others.


list of tables


list of illustrations




editors’ introduction


editors’ foreword
author’s preface



Criminal Craniums (Sixty-six Skulls)


Anthropometry and Physiognomy of 832 Criminals




Emotions of Criminals



Criminals and Religion



Intelligence and Education of Criminals




Criminal Literature



Insanity and Crime



Organized Crime



Atavism and Punishment








editors’ foreword
author’s preface



Suicide among Criminals



Criminals of Passion


Recidivism, Morality, and Remorse


Handwriting of Criminals


Etiology of Crime: Weather and Race


Etiology of Crime: Civilization, Alcohol, and Heredity



x contents

Etiology of Crime: Age, Sex, Moral Education, Genitals,
and Imitation



Prevention of Crime


Penal Policy



appendix 1 Giovanni Cavaglià


appendix 2 A Medical Examination of Parricide and Insanity


editors’ foreword
author’s preface



Crime and Inferior Organisms


Crime and Prostitution among Savages


Origins of Punishment


Moral Insanity and Crime among Children


Anomalies of the Brain and Internal Organs


Photographs of Born Criminals


Sensitivity and Blushing in Criminals



Moral Insanity and Born Criminality



Summary of Edition 3







editors’ foreword
author’s preface



Metabolism, Menstruation, and Fertility


Criminal Communication



Art and Industry among Criminals


The Epileptic Criminal


Epileptics and Born Criminals


Physiology and Etiology of Epilepsy


The Insane Criminal


Biology and Psychology of Insane Criminals


The Alcoholic Criminal



The Hysterical Criminal



The Mattoid


The Occasional Criminal







c o n t e n t s xi


editors’ foreword



Criminal Craniums (689 Skulls)


Anthropometry and Physiognomy of 6,608 Criminals


Political Criminals


Etiology of Crime: Urban Density, Alcoholism, Wealth,
and Religion





Etiology of Crime: Heredity, Sex, and Politics


Prevention of Crime


Synthesis and Penal Applications



appendix 1 Comparison of the Five Italian Editions


appendix 2 Illustrations in the Five Italian Editions










List of Tables

Note: Lombroso did not usually title his tables, especially when they were
short. We have added brief titles for clarity and ease of reference.
1. Cranial Circumference of Criminal Skulls 46
2. Hair Color of Soldiers and Criminals 54
3. Cranial Circumference of Insane Women, Prostitutes, and
Criminal Women 55
4. Tattoos in Soldiers, Criminals, and Prostitutes 59
5. Literacy in Male and Female Recidivists 75
6. Illiteracy in Criminals and Soldiers 76
7. Homicide and Suicide in Italy, 1870–71 103
8. Recidivism in England, 1871 109
9. Climate and Violent Crime in England and Italy 115
10. Price of Food and Types of Crime in Germany 122
11. Chretien-Lemaire Family Tree 124
12. Age of Normal, Insane, and Criminal Men 128
13. Number of Prisoners in Ireland 145
14. Anomalies in 160 Nursery School Children 196
15. Brain Anomalies in Twenty-eight Criminals 200
16. Tactile Sensitivity in Thirty-seven Criminals 208
17. Strength of Offenders by Crime Type 209
18. Quantitative Studies by Criminal Anthropologists 234
19. Psychological Anomalies of Epileptics 252
20. Causes of Epilepsy 262
21. Genealogy of Ratti 263
22. Genealogy of Misdea 264
23. Types of Insanity among Italian Criminals 269
24. Wrinkles in Normal and Criminal Men 310
25. Population Density and Types of Crime 317
26. Immigration and Rates of Crime 317
27. Wealth and Types of Crime 321
28. Anomalies in Criminals and Epileptics 339

List of Illustrations

Note: For information on Lombroso’s original captions, see appendix 2.
1. Skull of Villella 48
2. Skull of a Normal Man 48
3. Lombroso’s Phrenological Head (View 1) 49
4. Lombroso’s Phrenological Head (View 2) 49
5. Physiognomy of Criminals 52
6. Homosexual Arsonist Nicknamed ‘‘The Woman’’ 53
7. Tattoos of a Criminal Soldier 60
8. Tattoos of a Criminal Sailor 62
9. Group of Assassins from Ravenna 67
10. Tattoos of Camorristi 87
11. Water Jug: Effects of Cellular Imprisonment (View 1) 102
12. Water Jug: Effects of Cellular Imprisonment (View 2) 102
13. Water Jug: Effects of Cellular Imprisonment (View 3) 102
14. Handwriting of Criminals 112
15. Geography of Crime 116
16. Types of Killers and Thieves 117
17. German and Italian Female Criminals 129
18. Trococephalic Rapist from the Romagna (Version 1) 133
19. Trococephalic Rapist from the Romagna (Version 2) 133
20. Drawing by Sighetti Showing His Execution 147
21. Cavaglià’s Water Jug (View 1) 150
22. Cavaglià’s Water Jug (View 2) 150
23. Carnivorous Plants 169
24. Anomalies of the Palm in Monkeys, a Normal Man,
and Criminals 173
25. Types of African Criminals 179
26. Before-and-After Pictures of Vicious and Criminal Boys 193
27. Guiteau 199
28. Album of Criminal Photographs 203
29. Thief from Milan 223

xvi i l lu s t r at i o n s
30. Composite Photographs, Galtonian Method 232
31. Troppman’s Drawing of the Scene of His Crime 240
32. Handwriting under Hypnosis 242
33. Art of an Insane Criminal 245
34. Portraits of Epileptics 249
35. Gaits of Normal, Criminal, and Epileptic Men 254
36. Sexual Tattoo 275
37. Pietro Belm, a Chronic Alcoholic 279
38. Mattoids and Morally Insane Revolutionaries 286
39. Cranial Capacity of 121 Male Criminals 302
40. Height and Arm Span of Eight Hundred Criminals 307
41. Criminal Feet 308
42. Consumption of Alcohol by Country 319
43. Age of Parents for Normal Individuals, Criminals, and
the Insane 326
44. Criminal Art 341
45. Death Mask 349
46. Death Mask 349
47. Tattoos of Criminals 353


This volume completes our project of providing new English translations of Cesare Lombroso’s classic companion works, Criminal Man
and Criminal Woman. When looking back over the many years devoted
to this project, we will undoubtedly remember our 2004 research trip
to the Lombroso Museum of Criminal Anthropology at the University of Turin as its high point. We are indebted to Delia Frigessi for
her generous hospitality in arranging our visit to the museum and to
Renzo Villa for providing a fascinating historical tour of Lombroso’s
Turin. Our many hours of conversation with these two authorities on
the history of Italian criminology provided invaluable insights for our
project. Professor Paolo Tappero and Dr. Elena Gay of the Lombroso
Museum graciously guided us through the exhibit and answered our
numerous questions; we thank the museum for permission to photograph objects from Lombroso’s collection for this book. Mary Gibson
would also like to thank Professor Mario Portigliatti Barbos, emeritus
professor at the University of Turin and the last person to hold Lombroso’s chair in criminal anthropology, for welcoming her to the museum during an earlier visit in 1997 and providing her with photocopies
of several original Italian editions of Criminal Man.
From the beginning of this project, we have enjoyed the support and
counsel of Peter Becker of the Johannes Kepler University in Linz, Piers
Beirne of the University of Southern Maine, and Frances M. Heidensohn of Goldsmiths College, University of London, and the London
School of Economics. Other colleagues who provided assistance and
encouragement are Bernard Cohen, Simon Cole, Neil Davie, Ellen
Dwyer, Jeffrey Feldman, Sarah Hahn, Steven Hughes, Dario Melossi,
Graeme Newman, and Amy Srebnick. We fondly acknowledge the help
of Raphael Allen, the editor at Duke University Press who originally
championed our project and guided us through the preparation of
Criminal Woman. We had the unusual good fortune to work with an
equally fine editor, Courtney Berger, for Criminal Man. Courtney combines two invaluable qualities as an editor: efficiency and levelheaded-

xviii a c k n o w l e d g m e n t s
ness in offering practical guidance, and a deeply intellectual understanding of the historical significance of Lombroso and his writings. We
thank her for her commitment to our project.
A grant from the National Library of Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health, supported our research trip to Turin and
the preparation of this manuscript. Jacob Marini, director of Sponsored
Programs at John Jay College, offered invaluable assistance in obtaining this funding. We want to thank Mark Seymour of the University of
Otago for his willingness to wrestle with Lombroso’s long-winded and
often baffling prose in order to produce a first draft of our translation.
Tamar Pitch again graciously served as our Italian consultant on the
text; Corinna Riva of St. John’s College, Oxford, provided additional
The reproduction of Lombroso’s original illustrations would have
been impossible without the expertise and generous assistance of the
photographer Robert Roher and members of the John Jay Library including professors Ellen Belcher, Nancy Egan, Bonnie Nelson, and
Larry Sullivan. Others who contributed to this project include Raul
Cabrera, Brian Fox, Noah Simmons, and Ellen Zitani.
As a visiting research fellow of St. John’s College, Oxford University, Nicole Rafter enjoyed excellent conditions for working on this
project during the winter and spring of 2004. We would like to thank
Robert Hahn and Jim Cohen for their emotional support, thoughtful
advice, and willingness to share their lives with Cesare Lombroso over
the many years of this project.

Editors’ Introduction

This book offers English-language readers the first critical, scholarly
translation of Criminal Man (L’uomo delinquente), the classic work by
the Italian physician and psychiatrist Cesare Lombroso (1835–1909).
It provides a companion volume to our previous translation of Lombroso’s other major work, Criminal Woman, the Prostitute, and the Normal Woman.1 Criminal Man, first published in 1876 as one slim volume, went through five editions during Lombroso’s lifetime, each one
greatly expanded in both length and number of topics addressed.2 The
final edition, published in 1896–97, appeared in four volumes, the last
of which, entitled Atlas (Atlante), consists almost entirely of tables,
maps, drawings, and photographs. This new translation offers lengthy
excerpts from all five editions, so that readers can follow the development of Lombroso’s thought over his professional lifetime. Unlike earlier English translations, which are fragmentary and almost a century
old, this volume reveals for the first time the complexity of Lombroso’s
Lombroso is best known for his theory of the born criminal (delinquente nato), a dangerous individual marked by what he called ‘‘anomalies’’—physical and psychological abnormalities. For Lombroso, these
anomalies resembled the traits of primitive peoples, animals, and even
plants, ‘‘proving’’ that the most dangerous criminals were atavistic
throwbacks on the evolutionary scale. Because anomalies can be examined, counted, and classified, Lombroso promised to turn the study of
criminality into an empirical science. He called his new field of research
‘‘criminal anthropology,’’ reflecting his desire to reorient legal thinking
from philosophical debate about the nature of crime to an analysis of
the characteristics of the criminal.
We began this project with a disdain for what we understood as the
simplemindedness of Lombroso’s theory of atavism and with a fear that
his biological determinism was prejudicial to women, blacks, and other
social groups that he deemed inferior. Many of his conclusions seemed
silly, and his project a particularly frightful example of bad science. But

2 criminal man
our views have changed, based on our careful reading of his criminological oeuvre, our investigation of his place in Italian history, and our
research on the evolution of criminology in other countries. Lombroso
now appears to have been a curious, engaged, and energetic polymath
with a tremendous appetite for literature, art, and folklore, as well as
for natural science, medicine, psychiatry, and law. That he was careless
and often wrong about the conclusions that he drew from the disparate
data provided by these fields does not detract from the significance of
his enterprise.
Although deservedly known for its biological determinism, Lombroso’s criminological theory also embraces sociological causes of
crime. As a young liberal supporter of Italian unification and later a
member of the Italian Socialist Party, Lombroso sympathized with the
working classes and advocated a series of sometimes radical reforms to
lessen poverty and prevent lawbreaking.4 He proposed humanitarian
alternatives to incarceration for so-called occasional criminals, or those
individuals driven to crime by bad environment, and he became an
ardent champion of special medical institutions for the criminally insane. This new edition of Criminal Man captures the complexity of
Lombroso’s multicausal theory of crime and documents his wide range
of proposals for turning that theory into practical policy.
The most famous Italian thinker of his era, Lombroso emerged as
the leader of an international movement called the positivist or scientific school of criminology. He led the revolt against the classical school
of penology, which traced its roots back to the eighteenth-century Enlightenment and Cesare Beccaria’s famous tract, On Crimes and Punishments (1764).5 In opposition to Beccaria’s emphasis on the free will
of criminals and his dictum that punishment be proportional to the
crime, Lombroso urges that the severity of punishment match the dangerousness of the criminal, whose lawbreaking is not the result of free
choice but determined by biological, psychological, and social factors.
Although this so-called medical model of crime—according to which
criminality, like disease, required clinical examination and individualized treatment—was not completely new, Lombroso was the first to envision criminology as a new academic discipline independent of law and
public hygiene. Criminal Man was translated into French (1887), German (1887–90), Russian (1889), and Spanish (1899), and Lombroso’s
theory of the born criminal became the center of debate at the first
International Congress of Criminal Anthropology.6

e d i t o rs ’ i n t r o d u c t i o n 3
Both at home and abroad, Lombroso was known for his lively curiosity, innovative thinking, and dedication to translating ideas into practical reforms. A prodigious researcher and writer, he produced over
thirty books and one thousand articles during his lifetime.7 Respected
as a leading intellectual in Italy, he was invited to write for newspapers
and popular magazines on the major issues of the day, even those unrelated to crime. He inspired several generations of disciples and students,
many of whom implemented his theories as members of parliament,
judges, prison directors, or police administrators.8 His journal, the Archives of Criminal Anthropology, listed 68 collaborators on its masthead
in the founding issue of 1880, a number that grew to 106 within ten
years. Both lists included many foreign names, a pattern repeated in his
lengthy footnotes to Criminal Man, where he thanks numerous colleagues for use of their data and cites additional studies supporting his
conclusions. These footnotes show the international breadth of Lombroso’s reading; fluent in a number of languages, he was able to follow
developments across Europe and North America.
Despite the almost iconic status of Criminal Man as the founding
text of criminology, no complete English translation exists of any of
the five editions. Only two books in English can claim any relationship
to Lombroso’s classic, and both offer a fragmentary and distorted view
of his larger project. In 1911, Lombroso’s daughter, Gina LombrosoFerrero, issued a short compendium of his writings entitled Criminal
Man that has mistakenly been taken as a translation of the original
work.9 Although Lombroso-Ferrero, herself a doctor and a secretary
to her father, offers an accurate summary of Lombroso’s notion of the
born criminal, she radically oversimplifies a theory that is complex and
even contradictory in the original editions of Criminal Man. In her
1911 volume, we hear her words rather than those of her father, and
readers are left with the impression that his theory was static rather than
constantly in flux. The latter problem also mars the volume entitled
Crime: Its Causes and Remedies, also published in 1911, which translates
the third volume of the fifth edition of Criminal Man.10 Over half of
Crime is comprised of a synthesis that, like Lombroso-Ferrero’s volume, flattens out the nuances and erases the chronological development
of Lombroso’s thought. It leaves out all material from the first two
volumes of edition 5, including important topics that had preoccupied
Lombroso as early as the first edition of 1876. Our new translation, by
providing excerpts of all five editions in their chronological order, fills

4 criminal man
the need for an English edition of Criminal Man that traces the history of Lombroso’s notion of the born criminal and of criminal anthropology in general.

Goals of the New Edition
This new edition of Criminal Man—like the already published companion volume Criminal Woman—has a twofold purpose: to provide,
for the first time, an adequate English translation of a classic work by
Lombroso and to lay foundations for an emerging new generation of
Lombroso scholarship.
Until the publication of our recent edition of Criminal Woman, the
Prostitute, and the Normal Woman (2004), few of Lombroso’s original
texts were available in English, and existing translations were incomplete and out of print. La donna delinquente (Criminal Woman) was the
only criminological work by Lombroso to appear in English during his
lifetime and therefore became the conduit for his thought to the AngloAmerican world.11 Issued in 1895 under the title The Female Offender,
the first translation omitted major sections on so-called normal women,
female sexuality, and prostitution. The two versions of Criminal Man
mentioned above that appeared after Lombroso’s death constitute incomplete summaries of the final form of his theory. Presenting his ideas
in a congealed and artificial form, these earlier versions are of limited
use for scholars attempting to trace the origins of criminology. They
have misled generations of students to adopt a simplistic and stereotypical view of Lombroso, the man named in many of their textbooks
as ‘‘the father of modern criminology.’’ 12
A recent upsurge in research on Lombroso makes the appearance of
this new edition of Criminal Man especially timely. Even scholars who
read Italian have great difficulty locating all five editions of the original
text, especially the rare first edition. This holds true not only in Englishspeaking nations but also in Italy, where even the Lombroso Museum
in Turin possesses only three of the five editions. Despite the early translation of Criminal Man into French, German, Russian, and Spanish,
only one or two editions are available in each of these languages. Thus
this new edition provides the only resource in any language with selections from all five editions of Criminal Man.13
In part because of the misleading nature of existing translations,

e d i t o rs ’ i n t r o d u c t i o n 5
Lombroso has long been ridiculed as a simplistic biological determinist with reactionary ideas. English-language readers have had little understanding of the Italian context of Lombroso’s criminological theory
or the political goals of his proposals for reform of police, courts, and
punishment. Furthermore, the contribution of biologically deterministic thinking to the rise of the international eugenics movement made
hereditarian theories of crime an anathema to most scholars after World
War II. After Nazi death camps exterminated Jews on the basis of their
‘‘race,’’ scholars became unwilling to recognize distinctions among progenitors of biological theories of racial difference. They overlooked the
fact that Lombroso himself was Jewish and that his ideas, while properly labeled as racist, were not analogous to those of Nazi—or even Italian fascist—anti-Semitic ideologues.
Recent scholarship has begun to reevaluate the place of Lombroso
in a variety of contexts, including the histories of criminology, science,
race, and sexuality. These new works demonstrate that many of Lombroso’s views were standard for his time and rooted in humanitarian
impulses. In a pioneering work entitled Il deviante e i suoi segni: Lombroso
e la nascita dell’antropologia criminale (Deviancy and Its Signs: Lombroso
and the Birth of Criminal Anthropology), the Italian historian Renzo Villa
places Lombroso’s quest to identify signs of deviance on the criminal
body and in the criminal mind within the context of nineteenth-century
penal science and medicine.14 Mary Gibson argues in Born to Crime:
Cesare Lombroso and the Origins of Biological Criminology that the complexity of Lombroso’s theory inspired both liberal and conservative
policy shifts within the Italian criminal justice system.15 In Cesare Lombroso, Delia Frigessi offers a detailed account of the close relationship
between Lombroso’s intellectual biography and broader developments
in science and psychiatry.16 David Horn demonstrates in The Criminal Body: Lombroso and the Anatomy of Deviance how new instruments
of measurement encouraged Lombroso and other nineteenth-century
criminologists to see moral truths inscribed on the physical body.17 The
new scholarship agrees that Lombroso’s theory shared many assumptions, methods, and conclusions with a wider scientific and legal community. Instead of dismissing criminal anthropology as a naive or aberrant science, scholars are beginning to locate it in the broader context of
the production of scientific knowledge in the late nineteenth century.
New studies of nineteenth-century criminology in Europe and the
Americas are also documenting Lombroso’s international stature. Due

6 criminal man
to a dearth of research on the origins of criminology, Lombroso’s influence outside of Italy has until recently either remained unrecognized
or been deemed insignificant compared to national legal traditions.
The well-known denunciation of the concept of the born criminal by
French criminologists at the International Congress of Criminal Anthropology in 1889 has encouraged scholars to underestimate Lombroso’s international impact. The historians Laurent Mucchielli and
Marc Renneville, however, have recently argued that French opposition to Lombroso was based more on nationalist sentiment than substantive disagreement.18 Despite naming themselves the school of social milieu, French criminologists agreed that biology and heredity play
important roles in the etiology of crime; moreover, their theory of
degeneration differed from atavism principally in its emphasis on adverse social conditions that might initiate the biological decline of a
family. Richard Wetzell has made a similar argument for Germany,
where criminologists who rejected Lombroso’s definition of the born
criminal nevertheless accepted the medical model for identifying and
treating lawbreakers.19 According to a new book by Neil Davie, Lombroso’s criminal anthropology had significant influence even in England, whose criminological tradition has previously been described as
too embedded in the practical activities of prison doctors to incorporate continental theory.20
Nations outside of Europe also adopted Lombrosian ideas and
methods, often in an attempt to set criminology on a modern, scientific footing. In her book Creating Born Criminals, Nicole Hahn Rafter
has shown how biological theories of crime shaped new policies and institutions for individuals considered criminal, insane, or feebleminded
in the United States.21 A number of American criminologists became
conduits for Lombroso’s thought, thus compensating for the paucity of
English translations of his work. Historians of Latin America are beginning to document the deep impact of criminal anthropology on legal
and penal reformers in that region.22 Latin American jurists and criminologists gained access to Lombroso’s ideas both from Spanish translations of his books and from lecture tours in 1908 and 1910 by Enrico
Ferri, another prominent member of the Italian positivist school. That
Lombroso’s influence reached even to Asia is documented in the forthcoming collection of essays entitled Criminals and Their Scientists.23
Lombroso is becoming a touch point for a variety of fields outside
of the history of criminology and medicine including women’s studies,

e d i t o rs ’ i n t r o d u c t i o n 7
race studies, and the history of sexuality. The status of Lombroso as
an early sexologist has been obscured by the deletion of explicit references to sexual organs and behavior by English translators, which we
have now restored to the text. He also deserves recognition as a collector of art by and about criminals. The Lombroso Museum in Turin
has preserved Lombroso’s original collection of drawings and photos of
criminals, as well as paintings, sculpture, and furniture made by criminals. This volume includes over forty examples of this art, taken from
his original books and from photographs shot in the museum itself. Included as well are examples of another body of work collected by Lombroso—criminal writing. As an early student of prison culture, Lombroso analyzed poems, graffiti, and the shape of inmates’ script for clues
to their moral character. Lombroso’s mixture of contempt and admiration for the creativity of the criminal becomes evident, too, in his extensive analysis of tattoos, an artistic form combining drawing and writing.

Lombroso’s Explanation of Criminality
In Criminal Man, Lombroso’s major claim is to have turned the study
of crime into a science that draws its conclusions from empirical data
and clinical case studies. Such an approach was consistent with his medical training at the universities of Pavia, Padua, and Vienna. His dissertation on cretinism, a mental disorder widespread in impoverished areas
of Italy, showed his early interest in psychiatry and his humanitarian
impulse to address social issues. As a young military doctor during the
wars of Italian unification, Lombroso quickly developed his signature
approach of measuring and observing the bodies of his patients, in this
case soldiers. He later applied this method, supplemented with psychological interviews, to mental patients and, finally, criminals. Holding
posts in both mental asylums and prisons, Lombroso examined thousands of individuals during his lifetime, carrying out his own famous
prescription to study the criminal rather than the crime.
Lombroso’s intellectual trajectory was not unusual for the late nineteenth century, when the prestige of science, and particularly biology,
was in its ascendancy. Lombroso drew on the popularity of Charles
Darwin’s theory of evolution to convince readers of Criminal Man of
the scientific validity of his theory of criminal atavism. For liberal and
secular thinkers like Lombroso, science offered a counterweight to re-

8 criminal man
ligion and a tool for progress toward a more liberal society. Seeking
to incorporate empirical methods into their disciplines, scholars in the
nascent social sciences and even traditional humanities joined natural
scientists in creating the dominant intellectual movement of the late
nineteenth century—positivism. It is not surprising, then, that Lombroso and his followers proudly labeled themselves the positivist school
of criminology and criticized the heirs of Beccaria for abstract philosophizing when they could have been collecting data through actual contact with offenders.
Despite his claim to be a lonely pioneer in the application of science to penology, Lombroso drew on earlier movements that had initiated research on the physical and psychological traits of criminals.
The first of these was early-nineteenth-century phrenology, which located intellectual and emotional faculties in specific areas of the brain.
While rejecting the phrenologists’ map of the skull, Lombroso adopted
their assumption that exterior corporal features mirror interior moral
states.24 He fully accepted a second concept developed by early-nineteenth-century psychiatrists, moral insanity, as a diagnosis of individuals who performed depraved acts while remaining rational and logical.25
Mentioned briefly in the first edition of Criminal Man, moral insanity
becomes a key component of Lombroso’s theory of born criminality in
the third edition. Throughout the editions of Criminal Man Lombroso
also cites the findings of Adolphe Quetelet and A.-M. Guerry, who in
the 1820s and 1830s initiated the study of moral statistics, or the quantification of patterns of human behavior like crime.26 Finding that aggregate national crime rates remained steady over time, they argued that
crime was rooted not in individual choice but in larger and more constant social and biological factors. This insight informed Lombroso’s
frequent declaration that crime was ‘‘natural,’’ rather than a product of
free choice, and that it would always remain a part of the human experience.
For modern readers, Lombroso’s methodology appears unscientific
and even laughable. While his books are filled with statistical tables,
these tables are often sloppy and unsophisticated in their lack of standardization. Control groups appear as early as the first edition of Criminal Man, but they are not employed systematically. Even more questionable is Lombroso’s mixture of quantitative data with qualitative
evidence such as proverbs, historical anecdotes, and examples drawn
from painting and literature. Rather than distinguishing among more

e d i t o rs ’ i n t r o d u c t i o n 9
or less objective types of data, Lombroso treats all evidence as equal
and reenforcing. For him, proof results not from following a rigorous and clearly defined methodology, but from the accumulation of examples, no matter how disparate. Despite these failings, however, Lombroso’s approach did not fall outside the mainstream of social science
research of his day. Statistical procedures were rudimentary and reliable
data scarce in new fields like criminology. Many of Lombroso’s flawed
assumptions were shared by his colleagues in the fields of medicine
and anthropology, including the belief that physical traits constituted
visible signs of interior psychological and moral states. In short, its
methodological flaws notwithstanding, Lombroso’s criminal anthropology formed part of a general intellectual trend in all the new social
sciences of the late nineteenth century to medicalize human behavior.

Classification of Criminals
By the time of Lombroso’s death, criminal anthropology had become
world famous for its elaborate classification of criminals. This penchant
for classification, however, remains absent from the first edition of
Criminal Man, where Lombroso lumps all lawbreakers together in a
single, undifferentiated group, which he compares to the insane and,
sporadically, to control groups of ‘‘healthy’’ men (usually soldiers). In
fact, the phrase born criminal was coined four years later by Ferri and
did not appear in the first edition of Criminal Man.27 Yet in the earliest
formulation of his theory, Lombroso already focused on atavistic criminals, describing those physical and psychological features that quickly
became associated with criminal anthropology. One reads in the first
edition that criminals, compared to ‘‘healthy’’ individuals, have smaller
and more deformed skulls, greater height and weight, and lighter
beards. They are more likely to have crooked noses, sloping foreheads,
large ears, protruding jaws, and dark skin, eyes, and hair. They also tend
to be physically weak and insensitive to pain. This last trait, according
to Lombroso, constitutes the exterior sign of inward moral obtuseness
that explains why criminals rarely exhibit remorse for their crimes. Unable to control their passions, they indulge in drinking and gambling.
In edition 1, Lombroso also includes chapters on tattoos among prisoners, as well as on their jargon, poetry, and art. From Lombroso’s
eclectic point of view, the scientist must be alert to any and all clues to

10 c r i m i n a l m a n
atavism, even when those clues are more social than biological in nature. The criminal is a diseased person, and the criminologist has to be
creative in locating and reading the symptoms.
In the second edition of Criminal Man, Lombroso begins to build
a rudimentary system of classification by establishing a new category,
that of the so-called criminal of passion. Criminals of passion are unlike other criminals in many ways: they tend to have good reputations
before committing their crime; they repent immediately; and their motives are ‘‘generous and often sublime.’’ 28 These might include anger
against an adulterous spouse or commitment to a banned political ideal.
Both jealous husbands and political rebels may lose control of their
emotions momentarily, but in neither case do they typically exhibit the
physical or moral anomalies of common murderers.
In the third edition of Criminal Man, Lombroso adopts Ferri’s label
of the born criminal, a tag that quickly gained international recognition. It also drew instant criticism, as opponents ridiculed the inability
of Italian criminal anthropologists to identify a single anomaly that disfigured all born criminals. In response, Lombroso proposed that any
individual exhibiting a cluster of five or more anomalies be classified as
‘‘the full criminal type,’’ although he also maintained that even an isolated anomaly marked an offender as constitutionally flawed and therefore potentially dangerous.29 Pronouncing 40 percent of all offenders as
born criminals in the third edition of Criminal Man, Lombroso reduces
his estimate to 35 percent in the fifth edition.30 Crime: Its Causes and
Remedies names an even lower figure of 33 percent.31 That Lombroso
decreased his estimate of the extent of born criminality even after the
publication of the final edition of Criminal Man, bowing to pressure
from critics, is confirmed by Gina Lombroso-Ferrero’s English summary, which repeats the lower figure of 33 percent.32
Edition 3 of Criminal Man not only introduces the term born criminal but also reconfigures the relationship between criminality and insanity. In the first two editions, Lombroso seeks to differentiate criminality, an inborn condition present at birth, from insanity, a disease
usually developed later in life. In edition 3, however, he concedes that
crime and mental illness merge in the morally insane, individuals who
appear normal in intelligence but are unable to distinguish between
good and evil. When tested for physical sensitivity, they exhibit, according to Lombroso, a dullness of touch compatible with their moral
vacuity. To support his thesis of ‘‘the complete similarity between the

e d i t o rs ’ i n t r o d u c t i o n 11
morally insane and the born criminal,’’ he identifies studies that had
found moral insanity widespread among the prison population.
In this same edition, Lombroso also declares that the concept of
atavism is inadequate to explain the presence of multiple anomalies in
all born criminals, particularly in the morally insane. But rather than
abandoning his beloved notion of atavism, Lombroso simply adds disease to atavism as a possible cause of arrested development or the degeneration of biological and mental functions. Although Lombroso
criticizes other criminologists for relying too heavily on degeneration
theory, he finds it useful for explaining how social factors—such as alcoholism, venereal disease, or malnutrition—might initiate biological and
psychological regression in individuals and their progeny. Lombroso’s
adoption of degeneration theory, originally a French concept, might
seem to signify a defeat for criminal anthropology; but instead it broadened its scope and applicability. Lombroso could now count any malformation, even if attributable to disease rather than atavism, as one of
the cluster of anomalies that identify the born criminal.
In the fourth edition of Criminal Man, Lombroso adds epilepsy to
atavism and moral insanity as causes of born criminality. While subscribing to the notion (common in his time) that epileptics might commit crimes during convulsions, he goes even further by identifying
‘‘hidden epilepsy’’ (epilessia larvata) as a catalyst for lawbreaking in individuals free of physical symptoms. Thus by 1889, epilepsy becomes for
Lombroso a universal substructure of all criminal behavior, encompassing both moral insanity and atavism. He explains the differences among
the three categories as primarily those of scale: ‘‘The most serious cases
of moral insanity overlap with those of congenital criminality, while
epileptic criminals who experience fits of violence resemble the morally insane. Overall, the three phenomena are similar.’’ However, as this
quotation indicates, Lombroso never precisely articulates the relationship among atavism, moral insanity, and epilepsy in his born-criminal
Lombroso returns to the insane criminal in edition 4, identifying
three additional subcategories: the alcoholic criminal, the hysterical
criminal, and the mattoid. Alcoholic criminals are usually free of physical anomalies, but excessive drinking causes them to develop the same
psychological traits as born criminals: impulsiveness, cruelty, lack of
remorse, and laziness. Often inheriting a weak constitution from alcoholic parents, offenders of this type are predisposed to violent acts like

12 c r i m i n a l m a n
murder, rape, and homicide. The category of the hysterical criminal also
proves elastic, since its members may display few signs of mental illness
and be free of convulsions; but their character is marked by ‘‘an egotism and a self-preoccupation which leads to a desire for scandal and
public attention.’’ Most hysterics are female, whereas members of the
third category of insane criminals, mattoids, are invariably male. The
term mattoid was coined by Lombroso for self-fashioned prophets and
revolutionaries who rise from the lower classes to spout utopian ideas.
Lombroso points to mattoids’ voluminous writings as a sign of their
madness, for these tomes combine concepts that are ‘‘well-expressed
and even sublime’’ with others that are ‘‘mediocre, ignoble, and paradoxical.’’
Finally, the fourth edition of Criminal Man introduces a major new
category—the occasional criminal. In Lombroso’s schema, the occasional criminal encompasses four subgroups: pseudocriminals, marked
by few if any anomalies; criminaloids, who exhibit enough anomalies to
be predisposed to crime; habitual criminals, recidivists who begin their
careers as pseudocriminals but reach the depravity of born criminals
through repetitive lawbreaking; and latent criminals, who channel their
malicious instincts into alternative channels. In all cases, occasional
criminals break the law because environmental pressures or temptations overcome their natural goodness. Ultimately, however, Lombroso never became comfortable with the category of the occasional
criminal, complaining in edition 4 that it ‘‘does not offer a homogeneous type in the same way as born criminals and criminals of passion.
Rather, the category is composed of disparate groups.’’
In the final edition of Criminal Man, Lombroso recognizes a spectrum of deviant types beyond the born criminal.33 This proliferation
of categories across the five volumes of Criminal Man increases the
weight of sociological factors in Lombroso’s explanation of the causes
of crime. However, because of the notoriety of the concept of the born
criminal, Lombroso has rarely been credited with recognizing environmental factors as significant to the etiology of deviance. Yet as early as
in the first edition of Criminal Man he argues that ‘‘there is no crime
which is not rooted in multiple causes,’’ and by the final edition, he has
enumerated these social factors in great detail.34 Despite his increasing
emphasis on the social causes of crime, in the final analysis Lombroso
is able to continue denying free will by conceptualizing environmental
and biological forces as equally determinate.

e d i t o rs ’ i n t r o d u c t i o n 13

Practical Applications
Over the five editions of Criminal Man, Lombroso continually enlarged his sections on public policy. After unification in 1861, as Italians
debated the shape of a new criminal justice system, Lombroso was eager
to offer increasingly specialized recommendations for reform of the police, courts, and prisons. In ever-expanding sections on the prevention
and punishment of crime, Lombroso showed how these recommendations flowed logically from the principles of his general criminological
theory. He also drew on his vast knowledge of legal reforms in other
nations, many of which he urged on the Italian government.
Although his practical advice became increasingly specialized over
the years, Lombroso’s basic philosophy of punishment never changed.
In opposition to the Enlightenment principles of Beccaria, he counseled that punishment be tailored to individual criminals rather than
to their crimes. He explicitly rejected the principle of moral responsibility, arguing that criminals acted out of compulsion from either their
innate physical and psychological degeneracy or from the social environment. Yet even if criminals did not freely choose to break the law,
society still had the right to punish them in its own defense. This principle of social defense is not entirely distinct from Beccaria’s belief that
the major purpose of punishment is to prevent those guilty of crime
from further threatening society. Lombroso directly breaks with Beccaria, however, over the mode of determining appropriate punishments.
For Lombroso, it is illogical to construct a proportional scale of crimes
and punishments since both born and occasional criminals steal and
even murder. Therefore, the law should allow wide discretion to judges
to assess the degree of dangerousness posed by each defendant as a basis
for issuing the appropriate sentence.
In place of the classical scale of crimes and punishments, Lombroso
argued for a correlation between types of criminals and punishments.
He counseled that occasional crime could be prevented, and the five
editions of Criminal Man recommended a growing list of political, social, and economic reforms designed to eliminate the causes of crime.
These preventive measures, which he called ‘‘penal substitutes’’ (sostitutivi penali), included technical measures like street lighting and alarm
systems to discourage robberies and theft; new laws like the introduction of divorce to eliminate domestic violence and spousal murder;

14 c r i m i n a l m a n
and major social reforms like land redistribution to mitigate the dire
poverty of the southern peasantry. Lombroso showed surprising ambivalence, however, toward the spread of public education and of ‘‘civilization,’’ that is, urbanization and industrialization. Worried that primary education would help criminals perfect their craft, he opposed
schools in prisons, though he grudgingly admitted that the spread of
literacy among the general population would decrease crime in the long
run. Uncertainty also marked Lombroso’s discussion of civilization:
while he recognized that modernization had reduced levels of violence
and fostered moral, intellectual, and political progress, industrialization
had encouraged alcoholism among the working classes, and urbanization the formation of criminal gangs. In addition, civilization had led
to fraud and other new types of property offenses that were replacing
more atavistic crimes against persons.
Because civilization would never eliminate crime, Lombroso turned
his attention to prisons, even while seeking alternatives to incarceration for occasional criminals and criminals of passion. While the classical school had championed prisons as a humane and efficient alternative
to corporal punishment, positivists believed that incarceration corrupts
reformable criminals by mixing them with congenital deviants. When
unavoidable, prisons should be modeled on the so-called Pennsylvania
or cellular system, where inmates lived and worked in separate cells to
prevent communication and moral contamination. Preferable to prison
were fines or, if the defendant was poor, community service. For nondangerous criminals, Lombroso advised judges to recommend house
arrest, police surveillance, or simply judicial reprimands. He was also
enthusiastic about suspended sentences and parole, two modern alternatives to incarceration pioneered in France and the United States that
he crusaded to have introduced into the Italian criminal code.
For dangerous criminals, Lombroso recommended a series of specialized institutions. Born criminals and habitual criminals merited perpetual incarceration in the name of social defense and should be sent
to special ‘‘prisons for incorrigibles.’’ Insane criminals should also be
separated from society for life, but in special criminal insane asylums
(manicomi criminali), where they would receive psychiatric treatment.
A strong advocate of criminal insane asylums as a humane alternative to
incarceration, Lombroso also envisioned the establishment of specialized mental institutions for groups like alcoholic or epileptic criminals.
Despite his rejection of the death penalty in the first edition of Crim-

e d i t o rs ’ i n t r o d u c t i o n 15
inal Man, Lombroso gradually came to advocate it in the case of born
criminals convicted of a series of bloody crimes and for members of
organized gangs who threatened state security. In so doing, he defied
a public consensus in Italy that had abolished capital punishment in
the Zanardelli Criminal Code of 1889. To his adversaries he replied in
the fifth edition of Criminal Man that ‘‘to claim that the death sentence contradicts the laws of nature is to feign ignorance of the fact
that progress in the animal world, and therefore the human world, is
based on a struggle for existence that involves hideous massacres.’’ Society need have no pity for born criminals, who were ‘‘programmed to
do harm’’ and are ‘‘atavistic reproductions of not only savage men but
also the most ferocious carnivores and rodents.’’ Capital punishment,
in this social Darwinist view, would simply accelerate natural selection,
ridding society of the unfit.

Contexts for Criminal Man: Sex, Race, Age, and Class
Over the five editions of Criminal Man, Lombroso pays increasing
attention to groups that were beginning to elicit anxiety in late-nineteenth-century Europe and America: women; southern Italians, Africans, and other ‘‘inferior races’’; youth; and the lower classes, symbolized by rural bandits and urban revolutionaries. The emergence of these
groups as objects of study by social scientists and of discipline by the
state coincided with radical economic and political changes that accompanied industrialization, urbanization, and democratization. The pages
of Criminal Man often engage in larger debates outside of criminal
justice over issues like women’s rights in marriage, the alleged backwardness of southern Italians, proper schooling for children, and the
political demands of the new industrial working class. Lombroso’s discussions of sex, race, age, and class cut across and complicate his formal
typology of criminals based on dangerousness.
Lombroso’s treatment of the variables of sex, race, class, and age
exposes two contradictory tendencies in Criminal Man: on the one
hand, Lombroso incorporates popular prejudices of his day into his science, while, on the other hand, he takes independent and unpopular
stands on certain controversial issues. Although Lombroso always defended his unexpected pronouncements on public policy—such as his
support for divorce or opposition to colonialism—as logical outcomes

16 c r i m i n a l m a n
of his criminal anthropological theory, they were also shaped by his
personal biography. As the father of two well-educated daughters who
were themselves public figures, Lombroso was familiar with, and perhaps influenced by, debates in the early Italian feminist movement. His
Jewishness probably strengthened his positive attitude toward race mixing, a stance at odds with that of many other late-nineteenth-century
‘‘scientific’’ racists. As both a physician and a liberal (later a socialist),
Lombroso supported progressive political change that would alleviate
the poverty of both peasants and urban workers. These personal perspectives helped to temper the harsh teachings of Lombrosian theory:
that women, nonwhites, the poor, and children are physically, psychologically, and morally inferior to white men.
Sex. Unlike other criminologists of his day, Lombroso recognized the
importance of gender to the understanding of the etiology of crime. As
early as in the first edition of Criminal Man he included a short section
on criminal women. Most of his data on female crime in the early editions came from the famous study of Alexandre Parent-Duchatelet on
the prostitutes of Paris.35 Despite the paucity of evidence, Lombroso
enunciated his most fundamental insight into female criminality in the
first edition of Criminal Man, that prostitution represents the typical
form of female crime.
This idea helped Lombroso solve a theoretical contradiction that
emerged as he collected statistics and found that crime rates of women
were invariably lower than those of men. This rarity of female lawbreaking seemed inconsistent with Lombroso’s assumption of female
inferiority. He solved this contradiction by arguing that the fundamental characteristic of atavistic women was their exaggerated sexual drive,
which leads them more often into prostitution than to traditional male
crimes like murder and theft. Thus Lombroso redefined prostitution—
legal in Italy and most of nineteenth-century Europe—as a crime typical of women in what he referred to as savage societies.
In 1893, Lombroso expanded his analysis of female offending into a
separate book, Criminal Woman, the Prostitute, and the Normal Woman.
Lombroso should be recognized as one of the few criminologists before the advent of feminist criminology in the 1970s to collect extensive
data on female crime and take gender seriously as a category of analysis. His resulting theory, however, represented a setback for nineteenthcentury champions of women’s rights since it asserted the inferiority of

e d i t o rs ’ i n t r o d u c t i o n 17
both normal and criminal women, holding that both types had smaller
skulls, lighter brains, shorter bodies, less muscle, and weaker sensitivity
than their male counterparts. So-called normal women, according to
Lombroso, were like children and would always remain emotionally
and morally stunted compared with normal men.36 Only their maternal
instinct saved normal women from criminality, for it counterbalanced
their innate psychological traits of vanity, mendacity, and cruelty.
His bleak pronouncements on female inferiority notwithstanding,
Lombroso expressed sympathy for most female offenders. Weak and
impressionable, most women, he believed, committed illegal or immoral acts because of unfavorable social circumstances or pressure from
husbands or lovers. For Lombroso, these occasional female criminals
and prostitutes did not pose a great danger to society and deserved
but mild punishment. He advocated the legalization of divorce—a
radical position in late-nineteenth-century Italy—to allow women to
escape abusive or criminal husbands without resorting to domestic
homicide. In another challenge to conventional attitudes of his day,
Lombroso prescribed light punishment for women convicted of infanticide and abortion because their criminal behavior resulted not from
inborn atavistic tendencies but from the social stigma associated with
unwed motherhood. Thus he deemed only a minority of female offenders to be born criminals; but for those women who were ‘‘true monsters,’’ Lombroso demanded permanent incarceration.37
Race. Race is integrally woven into Lombroso’s theory of atavism,
which equates white men with civilization and black, brown, and yellow men with ‘‘primitive’’ or ‘‘savage’’ societies. In his earlier work
L’uomo bianco e l’uomo di colore (The White Man and the Man of Color),
Lombroso had already concluded that ‘‘we must say that there are two
general races: the White and the Colored.’’ 38 The first two editions of
Criminal Man haphazardly compared the traits of criminals with those
of ‘‘savages,’’ Lombroso’s representatives of earlier stages of evolution.
In edition 3, Lombroso makes his Darwinist underpinning more explicit by adding a long preliminary section on criminal behavior among
plants, animals, and primitive peoples. He argues that violence and
sexual licentiousness, which came naturally to organisms in early evolutionary stages, gradually gave way to modern notions of justice and
monogamy. Lombroso’s contention that non-European peoples were
inferior to white men was a commonplace in the society of his day, but

18 c r i m i n a l m a n
his systematic equations of born criminals and savages injected racism
into the new field of criminology.
When Lombroso discussed the relation of race to current issues of
his day, he seemed less concerned with inhabitants of non-Western
lands than with those of the Italian south. Like other northern Italians,
Lombroso was perplexed by the so-called Southern Question, the debate about the supposed backwardness of southern Italy, including the
islands of Sicily and Sardinia. Home to brigandage and criminal organizations like the Mafia and Camorra, the south seemed violent and
lawless to northern observers. Lombroso offered a complex answer to
the Southern Question, one that included a social critique of southern
elites for monopolizing landownership and a political condemnation of
the national government for failing to alleviate southern poverty, disease, and illiteracy. Despite his recognition of these environmental barriers to prosperity in the south, Lombroso nevertheless emphasized the
importance of race for explaining high rates of violent crime. Having
been conquered over the centuries by a number of foreign peoples—
including North African Arabs—the south was inhabited by a racially
mixed people, who, in Lombroso’s view, shared a propensity for murder with their nonwhite ancestors.
Lombroso offered a more subtle analysis of the behavior of Jews,
another group included in his chapter on race. His own Jewish ancestry partially accounts for his refusal to characterize Jewish behavior in
simple biological rather than more complex sociological terms. Aware
of the frightening rise during the last decades of the nineteenth century of racial anti-Semitism in northern Europe, Lombroso argued that
Jewish patterns of behavior derived from the historical legacy of persecution rather than from innate racial characteristics. He contended that
Jews have high arrest rates for property crimes like fraud and receiving
stolen goods because legislation in most European nations traditionally
forbade them to follow any professions besides peddling or commerce.
As proof that atavism is not intrinsic to the Jewish character, Lombroso
cites the rapid movement of Jews into important positions in politics,
the army, and academia once they gained the same civil rights as their
Christian compatriots.
Lombroso advocated harsh punishment for members of those races
he considered atavistic. True, Lombroso admitted that some supposedly primitive peoples were more honest than others and that poverty
turned many normal southern Italians into occasional criminals. But

e d i t o rs ’ i n t r o d u c t i o n 19
for the most part, Lombroso considered race a biological determinant
of atavistic behavior and, in the case of crime, of violence and cruelty
as well. For example, in edition 2 of Criminal Man, he describes the
Gypsies as ‘‘a thoroughly criminal race, with all its passions and vices,’’
whose atavistic tendencies even include cannibalism. Criminals of the
colored races, therefore, deserved harsh punishment including, at least
in the case of mafiosi and other members of Italian criminal organizations, the death penalty.
Age. The variable of age is central to Lombroso’s criminal anthropology in two ways. First, he characterizes all children as criminal because they display atavistic psychological traits such as vanity, cruelty,
laziness, fickleness, and dishonesty. For Lombroso, such behavior could
be explained by the nineteenth-century scientific maxim, attributed to
Ernst Haeckel, that ‘‘ontology reproduces phylogeny,’’ meaning that
the life of each individual recapitulates the evolution of the species; thus
the embryo is equivalent to the animal stage of evolution and childhood to that of primitive man. At puberty, according to Lombroso,
most children lose their criminal characteristics and mature into normal adulthood, much as savages evolved into civilized men. But despite
this generally optimistic prospect, for Lombroso childhood constitutes
a continual reminder that man’s atavistic past is encoded deeply in each
individual’s biology and psychology.
Second, precocious or early delinquency in children serves as a warning of the power of bad heredity. Lombroso filled Criminal Man with
case studies of young born criminals whose parents were atavistic, morally insane, or epileptic, or who passed on debilitating diseases like alcoholism, syphilis, or tuberculosis. Evincing the biological and psychological anomalies of born criminals from a young age, these children
never matured into normal adults. Such was the fate of many descendants of the drunkard Max Juke, an American family that fascinated
Lombroso and included 77 criminals and 128 prostitutes over the course
of seven generations.
Lombroso called for prevention rather than punishment of childhood crime since the law of recapitulation assured that most children
were only passing through a temporary phase of occasional criminality.
They would mature into healthy adulthood if guided by loving but
morally strict parents. For orphans, Lombroso recommended foster
homes or humane reformatories, although he generally believed that

20 c r i m i n a l m a n
institutions of incarceration spread rather than eradicated vice. Internment, however, proved the appropriate response to born juvenile delinquents, who constituted a danger to society even before committing
crimes. Once trained to detect biological and physical anomalies, police, teachers, and even parents could collaborate with criminal anthropologists in identifying atavistic youth and separating them from their
normal peers.
Class. A humanitarian current ran through Lombroso’s criminology
from its inception. Assigned to the southern Italian province of Calabria as a young army physician, Lombroso was shocked by the peasants’
extreme poverty that led to malnutrition, disease, and sometimes madness. When he returned to the north, he extended this sympathy for the
poor to the urban working classes. In Criminal Man, he indicts both
the southern aristocracy for monopolizing landownership and northern industrialists for exploiting factory workers. Lombroso’s close contact with the poor as a doctor and researcher helps explain his embrace
of socialism at the end of his life.
However, in Criminal Man, Lombroso sharply criticized rebels and
revolutionaries who called for violent social change. Many of his early
subjects of study were brigands, a group accused of political rebellion by the new Italian state. Historical research has refuted this accusation: most acts of brigandage—like robbing the rich or killing soldiers and state officials—were inspired not by leftist political ideology
but by a desperate determination to preserve regional autonomy. Like
many southerners, brigands viewed the new government in Rome as
an imperialist power whose officials, mostly from the north, were bent
on controlling the wealth and citizenry of the south. As a patriot and
firm believer in Italian unification, Lombroso echoed national policy
by equating brigandage with treason. Claiming that brigands exhibited
anomalies typical of savages, Lombroso denounced the atavistic quality
of their violent crimes.
Lombroso offered a more nuanced analysis of urban revolutionaries
who, unlike brigands, were often educated members of the nineteenthcentury middle class. His own political experience, first as a liberal
supporter of Italian unification and later as a socialist, made him appreciative of the role of courageous leaders in overthrowing absolutist
monarchy and promoting a new era of popular sovereignty. In Criminal Man, Lombroso assigned most political criminals to the category

e d i t o rs ’ i n t r o d u c t i o n 21
of criminals of passion because he believed their violence to be rooted
in idealism rather than atavism. Blessed with pleasing physiognomies
unscarred by anomalies, most political criminals seemed to pose little
social danger. But Lombroso’s admiration did not extend to mattoids,
whom he considered truly unbalanced and even insane in their political crusades.

Criminality and Representation
While Lombroso’s reputation rests on his scientific work, he had a
humanistic side as well, one that was fascinated by criminals’ arts and
crafts, their handwriting, tattoos, and graffiti, their jargon, songs, sculpture, poetry, and folklore. Lombroso went to great lengths to collect,
preserve, and interpret the creative work of offenders; he seems to have
been the first person to value such material and collect it systematically. Closely related were his efforts to represent his own criminological theory visually—in charts, drawings, graphs, maps, photographs,
and the museum of criminal anthropology that he founded in Turin.
In addition, Lombroso produced images of criminal life and culture
through the narratives of his texts, one of them a grand master narrative (the story of evolution itself, in which born criminals form an instructive, if gloomy, chapter), others short anecdotes (his myriad brief
tales of individual crimes and criminals). Criminal anthropology’s success owed a great deal to Lombroso’s ability to embody his theory visually and embed it narratively.39
Art. To each successive edition of Criminal Man Lombroso brought
not only previously unpublished images but also new types of images
(handwriting samples in the second edition, for example, and beforeand-after photographs of reformed criminals in the fifth) and innovative methods of representation (heredity charts in the second edition,
bar graphs in the third, crime maps in the fourth).40 The first edition
of Criminal Man (1876) begins simply enough, with four illustrations:
two of criminals’ faces, one of tattoos, and one of prisoner art.41 The
second edition (1878) includes the same four illustrations and adds ten
new ones. The third edition (1884) has twenty-five illustrations, and the
fourth edition (1889), a two-volume work, has sixty-five. The fifth and
final edition (1896–97) dedicates its entire final volume, the Atlas, to

22 c r i m i n a l m a n
visual evidence for criminal anthropology. Considered by Lombroso to
be ‘‘the most important’’ part of Criminal Man, the Atlas has 121 illustrations.42
Over the two decades spanned by these five editions, Lombroso
rarely discarded an image from his inventory, instead heaping new layers onto his snowballing collection. Other turn-of-the-century texts on
crime and forensics, too, carried abundant illustrations, but nothing in
criminological history rivals the visual richness of the third, fourth, and
fifth editions of Criminal Man. As his daughter Gina remarked (teasingly, one hopes), Lombroso was a ‘‘born collector.’’ 43
Lombroso’s delight in images of criminality spilled over into some
of his other books as well. Criminal Woman includes eight full-page
illustrations and eighteen others set into the text.44 Crime-related
images also appear in Palimsesti del carcere (Prison Palimpsests), Lombroso’s 1888 collection of prisoner prose, pictographs (annotated drawings), tattoos, and wall writings.45 Another example can be found in
Lombroso’s lavishly illustrated L’uomo bianco e l’uomo di colore, which,
although it mainly depicts exotic Africans, Australians, and ‘‘Orientals,’’
also includes several images related to criminology: skulls purporting
to demonstrate the superiority of the European cranium; a naked Bushman woman with an anomalous rump; and the skull of the brigand
Villella, the body part that, Lombroso claimed, first inspired his realization that criminals are evolutionarily backward and marked by anomalies. Supplementing Criminal Man, these books visually pursue aspects
of its argument.
Although Lombroso clearly enjoyed images of prisoner arts, crafts,
and body parts for their own sake, he felt that he had to justify his interest in scientific terms. Thus of pictographs he observes, ‘‘The tendency
of criminals to express their thoughts . . . through drawings is a curious
fact of atavism.’’ 46 Of a female skull Lombroso writes that it belongs
to ‘‘a prostitute from Naples. Sloping forehead, prognathism. Negroid
type of face. Strong jaws.’’ 47 The staged photograph of men reenacting
their crime (reproduced in this volume as figure 9) demonstrates criminals’ ‘‘incredible vanity.’’ 48 Ironically, such comments undercut Lombroso’s empiricism by implying a need for creative interpretation. The
pictograph on a prisoner’s water jug (figure 22) does not simply show
a man sitting in a cupboard; it is also the prisoner’s confession of guilt
for killing his neighbor and shoving his body in the cupboard. Simi-

e d i t o rs ’ i n t r o d u c t i o n 23
larly, tattooed flowers (figure 47) mean more than they seem to, for this
motif, Lombroso reports, is found most commonly on pederasts.49 On
a more abstract level, the images signify atavism, vanity, and kinship
with savages. Lombroso’s displays, then, link science and art, operating simultaneously on the visual and narrative levels, drenching objects
with symbolic meanings. Because the displays require explanation, they
also, in a sense, call criminology and criminologists into being.50
Creativity played yet another role in the production of Lombroso’s
illustrations. While there is no evidence that Lombroso deliberately
misled viewers, in some cases his preconceptions about how criminals
should look influenced his preparation of images for publication. This
process can be seen most clearly in a portrait of a Romagnolo trococefalo,
or abnormally round-headed man from the Romagna, that appeared
in the very first edition of Criminal Man (figure 18). It took us some
time to realize that this was the same fellow depicted as the Romagnolo
trococefalo stupratore (abnormally round-headed rapist from Romagna)
of the second and subsequent editions (figure 19). Between the first and
second editions, the portrait underwent considerable uglification. The
man’s head became bald, aside from a wispy outer ring of hair. His ears
extended outward to resemble jug handles. He acquired a stubble on his
chin and upper lip, deeper wrinkles, and shiftier eyes; overall he aged
by at least twenty years. The original image depicts not the monstrous
rapist of the later editions but an innocuous-looking man.
Similarly, while doing research in Lombroso’s museum, the historian Giorgio Colombo discovered earlier (and far less horrific) versions
of some of Lombroso’s other brutish characters. ‘‘The passage from
photo to drawing and from drawing to engraving,’’ Colombo points
out, ‘‘is a gradual process of deformation—and the formation of a monster. . . . The procedure pushes the recalcitrant image to correspond to
the archetype of a wicked man, who naturally is always ugly.’’ 51 Mario
Portigliatti Barbos, a successor to Lombroso’s chair at the University
of Turin, has also remarked on the slippage from likeness to stereotype
involved in the production of some of his predecessor’s illustrations.
‘‘There is an unconscious element of caricature [even] in the pages of the
Album of Delinquents n. 1 and 2 [Lombroso’s source material], which
dates back to 1871 and includes various drawings, probably from the
hand of Frigerio,’’ 52 a physician who contributed images to Lombroso’s
collection.53 Thus even Frigerio’s original images, from which Lom-

24 c r i m i n a l m a n
broso later derived his caricatures, were shaped by theoretical presuppositions. The boundary between science and art was fluid from the start.
Narrative. In Criminal Man, Lombroso employed narrative in two
ways to supplement his quantitative data. First, Lombroso examined
written artifacts and the language of inmates to deepen his understanding of the criminal mind. Second, he himself employed narrative and
literary evidence to supplement his measurements and statistics in creating his portrait of the born criminal. To the modern reader, passages
of Criminal Man that cite Dostoyevsky or Italian proverbs as support
for criminological claims seem inappropriate. Yet Lombroso’s leavening of statistics with stories made his theory accessible to an audience
that went beyond the academic and medical communities.
As early as in the first edition of Criminal Man Lombroso included
chapters on criminals’ literature and jargon. He seemed to delight in
the poetry of prison inmates, which he deemed ‘‘a surprise from such
pens.’’ Favorably comparing one prison poet to the Renaissance writer
Petrarch, he concluded that criminals were attracted to poetry because
it lent itself to the expression of strong emotions. Lombroso found
the jargon of criminals equally fascinating and more obviously a sign
of their atavistic nature. Surprisingly uniform across Italy, criminal jargon, he reported, mixed archaic and childish vocabularies. Lombroso
concluded in edition 1 of Criminal Man that criminals ‘‘speak like savages because they are savages, living amidst the very flower of European
In the second edition of Criminal Man, Lombroso added a chapter
on what he would later call graphology, or the identification of criminal
character through handwriting analysis. Admitting that ‘‘the idea that
a man’s handwriting can provide clues to his psychological state may
seem useless and even bizarre,’’ he nevertheless claimed to have discovered significant differences between the script of murderers and thieves.
In the fourth edition, he expanded his graphological experiments by
using hypnosis on a supposedly normal young man who, when told he
was a criminal, began to write in rough, uncivilized script.
In Palimsesti del carcere, Lombroso collected over thirty additional
pages of prisoners’ writing, including graffiti from cell walls, designs
on inmates’ water jugs, comments scribbled in the margins of prison
library books, embroidery on prison uniforms, and tattoos. In his introduction, Lombroso explained that this vast collection of prison artifacts

e d i t o rs ’ i n t r o d u c t i o n 25
contradicted the general view that the prison is ‘‘a mute and paralyzed
organism, deprived of a mouth or hands.’’ 54 Instead, these artifacts constituted ‘‘a real collection of autobiographies’’ that reveal ‘‘significant
signs of the true fiber and psychology of that new and very unhappy
race,’’ born criminals.55 Comparing himself to a paleographer or translator of ancient texts, Lombroso modestly described Palimsesti as a collection of data meant only for the eyes of scientists. Yet his tantalizing
hints that prison writing was obscene seem designed to attract a wider
audience—readers who, like Lombroso himself, would be fascinated by
the criminal underworld.
In Criminal Man, Lombroso himself used narrative to buttress his
scientific arguments. His psychiatric interviews with prisoners elicited
individual and family stories that seemed to prove the tenets of criminal anthropology. Lombroso shaped his case studies of famous criminals like Salvatore Misdea and the brigand Giuseppe Musolino into
gripping tales of atavistic monstrosity and bad heredity. At times,
Lombroso inserted himself, or other criminal anthropologists, into the
drama of court cases, picturing scientists as saviors who alone could determine criminal insanity.
At another level of narrative, Lombroso used historical anecdotes,
literary passages, and proverbs as scientific evidence. He did not hesitate to cite, for example, the jug ears of the Roman emperor Nero in
edition 1 of Criminal Man as proof that this anomaly typified born
criminals. Similarly, the figure of Raskolnikof in Crime and Punishment confirmed for Lombroso in the fourth edition the existence of
atavistic traits in many occasional criminals. Perhaps most surprising
to the modern reader is Lombroso’s readiness, in the fifth edition, for
example, to resort to proverbs as confirmation of his findings that
criminals exhibited certain physiognomical abnormalities such as sparse
beards, beady eyes, and, in women, virile voices. However unscientific
this resort to popular opinion might seem, Lombroso’s ideas spread
quickly because they were built on what one narrative theorist has
called ‘‘preconstructs’’ or prevailing stereotypes.56 Rather than detracting from the impact of Criminal Man, its many narrative devices multiplied its appeal and accessibility to audiences outside of the academic
and legal communities.
At a more general level, Criminal Man as a whole offers a master
narrative of the evolution of law and crime from the plant and animal
world to savage society and finally to civilized Europe. This grand story

26 c r i m i n a l m a n
knits together the multiple and fragmented types of evidence offered
by Lombroso, including statistics, interviews, historical examples, and
proverbs. While Lombroso’s narrative differed little from the standard
social Darwinism of his day that described the triumph of white civilization over a barbarous past, it added a unique dimension to this story
by arguing that the roots of modern law lay in the crime and violence
typical of past societies, rather than in religion or lofty philosophical
principles.57 In the final edition of Criminal Man, Lombroso added a
surprising twist to his master narrative, one that had hitherto painted
a vast panorama of criminals and their multiple threats to society. In
the end, he suggests that crime is useful and has constituted the motor
force of history.

The Lombroso Museum
To house his ever-expanding collection of both visual and written artifacts, in 1884 Lombroso informally opened a museum at the University
of Turin.58 It offered exhibits on a wide range of degenerates—epileptics, freaks, lunatics, prostitutes, and street children, as well as lawbreakers. An incredible array of bizarre displays, many of them contributed
by Lombroso’s admirers in other parts of Italy and foreign countries,
jammed the six rooms of the museum, floor to ceiling: wax death masks
and pickled brains; obsessive drawings by the criminally insane; bits of
tattooed skin; weapons, manacles, and leg irons; overscale models of
carnivorous plants; a mummy; more than three hundred skulls—Abyssinian, Chinese, Indian, and Patagonian, as well as Italian; a huge model
of the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, illustrating its system
of solitary confinement; a lithograph of a Prussian cannibal; remains
stolen from ancient Sardinian tombs; bodies of murdered infants; prisoners’ water jugs incised with sexual fantasies; and, after Lombroso’s
death in 1909, not only his entire office but also his own face, dozing through eternity in a jar of preservative.59 However, as Portigliatti
Barbos warns, one should not leap to the ahistorical conclusion that
the collection is merely ‘‘incomprehensible bric-a-brac,’’ for, in fact, it
‘‘offers premises, techniques, methods, values, and results,’’ albeit while
leaving the determination of meanings to ‘‘the subjective fantasy of the
visitor.’’ 60
The opening of the Lombroso museum, like the publication of the

e d i t o rs ’ i n t r o d u c t i o n 27
Atlas, marked a triumph of positivism, with its emphasis on empirical research and scientific induction. More specifically, the museum’s
establishment marked the triumph of criminal anthropology, with its
assumption that knowledge somehow inheres in crime-related objects.
According to the museum’s unspoken premise, criminologists and police officials could derive lessons in crime prevention from the study of
these artifacts. For turn-of-the-century visitors to this museum and to
its imitators in other European cities, the historian Susanne Regener
explains, ‘‘an aura of knowledge surrounded the collection of artifacts
of deviants, establishing as it were a metaphysics of evil: the object’s
essence could be grasped merely by gazing at it. The items on view
. . . were therefore . . . important because knowledge would manifest
itself in them.’’ 61 Lombroso made the same epistemological point in the
introduction to his Palimsesti, where he claimed that he did not want
to influence readers’ interpretations—conclusions ‘‘which, in my view,
must emerge spontaneously and speak by themselves to the eyes of the
impartial reader.’’ 62 That he in fact went on to tell readers exactly how
to interpret every item in the book merely underscores his faith in artifacts’ hidden but extractable meanings.
Other than to store Lombroso’s collection, what were the goals of
the strange museum? To a great extent, its objectives were identical
to those of the illustrations in Criminal Man: to preserve, educate,
persuade, and celebrate. The pedagogical goal predominated, officially
at least: Lombroso hoped that the museum would promote scientific
policing, educate future criminologists, and persuade both the general public and specialists of the virtues of criminal anthropology. Less
clearly articulated was the goal that Regener calls ‘‘trophyization’’—
demonstrating and celebrating the victory of science over crime and, in
Lombroso’s case, the triumph of criminal anthropology over rival doctrines.63 In addition, the museum had a political dimension. Founded
not long after Italy became an independent nation, it manifested the
hope that science would lead to the control of degeneracy and the creation of a healthy, progressive state. ‘‘The function of the museum,’’
Regener observes, ‘‘was, in this context, to express symbolically the
borders, stigmata, and visionary plans of the contemporary project of
‘making Italy.’’’ 64 Expanding on this theme, another of the museum’s
historians, Colombo, explains that ‘‘for a society that was turning to research for its own identity, for protection against the specter of the past
and for guarantees of progress,’’ positivism ‘‘offered the exciting pros-

28 c r i m i n a l m a n
pect of capturing reality through the medium of science—. . . measurable facts and deductions from exact laws, . . . as valid for man as for
nature and, especially, for society.’’ 65 Thus the museum signified hope
that Italy’s future would be guided by the very best that contemporary
science had to offer.66
Lombroso’s museum and book illustrations continue to serve one
of their original purposes: to provide a unique record of nineteenthcentury prisoners and their subcultures. From the pages of Criminal
Man and other works derived from the museum, one learns of inmates’
hopes and fears; their attitudes toward their offenses and, sometimes,
toward their impending executions; secrets of their life in organized
crime networks such as the Camorra; their views of police, jailors, religion, and sex; their beliefs about the potential of the tattooed body;
their sense of humor. A century before so-called outsider art became
fashionable, Lombroso preserved prisoners’ autobiographical drawings
of crime scenes, criminal careers, firing squads, and suicides. (‘‘I am a
disgrace[;] my destiny is to die strangled in prison,’’ reads the inscription under a sketch of a prisoner dangling from a rope tied to his cell
window grating [figure 21].) In a period famed for sexual prudishness,
Lombroso published tattoos of decorated penises and priapic fantasies,
helping to establish the field of sexology. From outlaws valued by no
one else he collected playing cards, engravings on dried gourds, and
sculptures fashioned from breadcrumbs. He preserved photographs in
which violent men staged scenes of impending or remembered violence
(figure 9). The images of Criminal Man offer valuable perspectives on
not only criminals’ culture but also on their emotional lives—‘‘precious
signs,’’ Lombroso called them, ‘‘of the moral and psychological condition of this unfortunate class, who live beside us without our really
knowing their true characters.’’ 67

Lombroso’s Influence
Since his death in 1909, Lombroso has remained central to criminological debates, even though his ideas have not always been understood and
have often been lambasted by critics. Controversial from its inception,
the notion of the born criminal has both fascinated and repelled succeeding generations of criminologists. With the publication of the first
edition of Criminal Man, Lombroso’s image of the atavistic offender—

e d i t o rs ’ i n t r o d u c t i o n 29
with his small skull, low forehead, protruding jaw, and jutting ears—
fired the imagination of not only jurists and doctors but also writers,
journalists, and artists throughout Europe. Criminal anthropology became central to the construction of the new discipline of criminology by
offering a seemingly more modern and scientific explanation for crime
than did traditional legal philosophy based on free will. In 1885, after
the appearance of three editions of Criminal Man, Lombroso hosted
the first International Congress of Criminal Anthropology in Rome,
where his theory of the born criminal went practically uncontested.
The international repute of Lombroso and his followers brought them
fame within Italy, where positivist criminology was dubbed the Italian
By the second International Congress of Criminal Anthropology in
Paris in 1889, however, Lombroso had come under attack, particularly
from the French delegation. That Lombroso was acutely aware of the
many criticisms of his theory is clear from the prefaces to each edition
of Criminal Man, which constitute increasingly lengthy and defensive
responses to his adversaries. The French proposed an alternative theory
of social milieu that emphasized the role of social factors in initiating physical and psychological processes of degeneration. In following
years, German proponents of the so-called modern school of criminal
law rejected the importance of physical anomalies in favor of psychological signs of pathology in the diagnosis of criminality. Neither the
French nor the Germans denied the hereditary nature of crime, but
their specific rejection of born criminal theory with its emphasis on atavism injured Lombroso’s prestige.
The publication in 1913 of The English Convict by Charles Goring
dealt a further blow to the reputation of Italian criminal anthropology.68 Using more sophisticated statistical techniques than had Lombroso, Goring claimed to have destroyed the theory of the born criminal by proving that physical anomalies were no more widespread in
criminals than in the general population. Despite celebration among
Lombroso’s enemies, who thought that the born criminal had been
laid to rest, Gina Lombroso-Ferrero perceptively realized that ‘‘Goring is more Lombrosian than Lombroso’’ because his conclusion—that
offenders are mentally deficient and inherit their tendency to crime—
echoed her father’s ideas.69 While Lombroso-Ferrero certainly exaggerated the similarities between Lombroso and Goring, she was correct
in noting that the strain of biological and psychological determinism

30 c r i m i n a l m a n
within European criminology owed an enormous debt to her father.
This emphasis on heredity as the mechanism most responsible for perpetuating vice, crime, and disease only grew stronger when the eugenics movement peaked in the interwar period.
Not surprisingly, allegiance to Lombroso remained strongest in Italy
as several new generations of criminologists continued to apply and update his theory. Two main trends characterized developments within
the positivist camp after Lombroso’s death. First, his followers increasingly emphasized psychological traits rather than physical anomalies as
the defining feature of inborn criminality. Second, others retained an
emphasis on physical anomalies but downplayed cranial and skeletal
malformations in favor of studies of hormones and body types. Lombroso’s intellectual heirs moved into positions of power within parliament and the criminal justice system, assuring the popularity of positivist criminology throughout the fascist period. After a visit to Italy
in 1936, the American sociologist Elio Monachesi noted in amazement
‘‘the intense loyalty to and reverence for Lombroso displayed by the
students of crime in Italy.’’ 70
For the most part, criminologists in the United States rejected biological determinism in the 1920s and 1930s, adopting sociological explanations of crime. The Chicago school of criminology, with its emphasis on the formative influences of family and neighborhood, came
to dominate academic theories of crime. Biological perspectives did
not disappear, however, particularly when the offenders were women.
While few American criminologists followed Lombroso’s lead in devoting serious attention to female crime, those who did echoed his conclusions. In Five Hundred Delinquent Women, the prominent Harvard
criminologists Sheldon and Eleanor Glueck viewed extramarital sexuality among women as a sign of biological inferiority and bad heredity,
part of a syndrome that included feeblemindedness or weak intelligence.71 In addition, in 1939, the American eugenicist and anthropologist Earnest Hooton published two books that attempted to update
Lombroso’s criminal anthropology.72
Today, criminologists are again considering the possibility that
crime may be rooted (at least partially and occasionally) in biological
factors. In the United States, where for most of the twentieth century
sociological theories dominated explanations of male offending, this
shift represents a major change. The change is less radical in Italy, where
criminology for decades formed part of the professional territory of

e d i t o rs ’ i n t r o d u c t i o n 31
medical schools, and where in any case Lombroso’s influence remained
stronger.73 The change is also less marked in terms of explanations of
female crime, which until the 1970s continued to be shaped by the
biological (and specifically Lombrosian) tradition.74 But although biological theories never entirely died out in some countries or in female
criminology, for the most part they were eclipsed—until their recent
Of course, the current revival of biological explanations does not
mark a simple return to Lombroso’s positions. There are at least three
fundamental differences between biological theories of crime today and
in the past. One lies in the fact that whereas criminal anthropologists
often spoke in terms of a nature-nurture dichotomy, theorists today
speak of gene-environment interactions, holding that heredity seldom
works independent of a context. A second major difference concerns
determinism: whereas Lombroso claimed that born criminals are biologically bound to commit crime, criminologists today are likely to
speak in terms of probabilities, risk factors, and antisocial predispositions. (To be fair, however, one must recognize that Lombroso’s strict
determinism applied only to born criminals; for other offender types
he recognized a probabilistic interplay of social and biological factors.)
A third outstanding difference lies in the type of causational factors
studied by biological theorists in the past and today: whereas Lombroso focused on atavism, degeneration, epilepsy, and moral insanity,
theorists today study such factors as the evolution of antisocial personality traits, behavioral genetics, hormonal imbalances, and neurocognitive deficits.
Despite these crucial differences, however, there also exist a number of significant parallels between the ideas of criminal anthropologists
and present-day biocriminologists. Most striking is the way members
of both groups have distinguished between a small inner circle of very
serious, habitual offenders and an outer ring of more numerous run-ofthe-mill offenders. Lombroso spoke of born criminals, differentiating
them from less serious occasional criminals, accidental criminals, criminals by passion, and so on; these basic differentiations resurface in current distinctions between life-course persistent and adolescence-limited
offenders.75 The recent work does not derive from Lombroso’s teachings, but in this respect it does reach similar conclusions.
Second, Lombroso foreshadowed one of the major currents in biocriminology today, that of evolutionary psychology. Profoundly influ-

32 c r i m i n a l m a n
enced by Darwinism, Lombroso perceived a multitude of evolutionary effects on criminal behavior, most obviously in his theory of the
criminal as an atavism or throwback to an earlier evolutionary stage,
but also in his attribution of innate criminality to poorly evolved organisms such as savages, children, animals, and even plants. Today’s
evolutionary psychologists argue that our social behaviors, including
perhaps male sexual aggressiveness and women’s overall lower rates of
crime, can be explained as by-products of adaptation and sexual selection over long periods of time.76 But their work, like Lombroso’s, uses
Darwinian concepts as a starting point.
A third parallel between past and present biological explanations of
crime lies in Lombroso’s anticipation of yet another major current in
today’s theories, that of behavioral genetics. While Lombroso did not
think in terms of genes, which were identified just at the time of his
death, he did believe that heritable tendencies, transmitted through the
generations, influenced criminal behavior. This is not far from what
current genetic theories of crime hold when they speak of genetic predispositions or propensities to behaviors such as impulsiveness or sensation-seeking that may lead to crime, especially if the individual is born
into an environment that does not instill self-restraint. On a fundamental level, criminal anthropology’s emphasis on heredity anticipated current genetic explanations of rule-breaking behavior.
Few American criminologists today, no matter how devoted to biological theories, trace their roots to Lombroso; nor does the current resurgence in biological theories mark a return to criminal anthropology.
The resurgence does, however, echo many of Lombroso’s key ideas. In
major ways, Criminal Man proves to have been a forerunner of current
theories about biology and crime.

A Guide to This Translation
This volume is intended to make available to English-language readers
key excerpts from all five editions of Lombroso’s Criminal Man. We
have included Lombroso’s original footnotes, tables, and illustrations
to show how Lombroso used different types of data to support his
theory of criminal anthropology. In addition, we provide this general
introduction, forewords to each edition, footnotes, a glossary, a bib-

e d i t o rs ’ i n t r o d u c t i o n 33
liography, and appendices with information about Lombroso and his
historical context.
Our intention is neither to endorse nor to attack Lombroso’s theory,
but rather to make his works available to criminologists and historians.
A careful reading of Criminal Man challenges the pat analyses of Lombroso’s thought available in most criminological textbooks and collections of criminological readings.77 While Lombroso’s name is wellknown to criminologists and historians, the evolution and complexity
of his ideas, and even the contradictions within them, are obscured in
the standard textbook summary that focuses exclusively on the born
criminal. The relationship of Lombroso’s ideas to his biography and
Italian history has been ignored by scholars who do not read Italian.
But this situation is now changing, and as new books on Lombroso
appear in English, scholars will be able to judge them in light of Lombroso’s original text.
Translation Philosophy. This translation of Criminal Man abridges the
original five editions, but it does not distort their content; it reveals the
direction of Lombroso’s thought as it grew increasingly complex over
twenty years. We include all the major topics addressed by Lombroso
in this English edition, which is divided into sections corresponding to
the five original Italian editions. The first section of the book includes
every chapter of the first edition of Criminal Man aside from those on
criminal morality, the etiology of crime, and crime prevention. These
three chapters are postponed until our section on the second edition,
where Lombroso analyzes these topics in fuller detail. Our second section also includes chapters on suicide, criminals of passion, and criminal
handwriting. Entirely new topics (crime in animals and savages, crime
among children, and moral insanity) are contained in the next section
pertaining to the third edition, while the epileptic, insane, and occasional criminal appear in section four on the fourth edition. Because
the fifth edition was mainly a compendium of the previous editions,
the final section of this translation returns to previous topics but shows
how Lombroso expanded and changed them. For example, we show
how the databases of the chapters on criminal craniums and criminal
physiognomy expanded over time, and how the fifth edition’s chapters
on the etiology, prevention, and punishment of crime introduce new

34 c r i m i n a l m a n
We were able to retain the substance and shape of the original Italian texts because Lombroso never eliminated, and rarely revised, chapters. As he identified new causes of crime and categories of offenders, he
simply added new chapters to the previous ones. Thus many chapters
remained intact through the five editions. This pattern emerges clearly
in our appendix 1, where we present a comparative summary of the
contents of all five original editions. When important new subsections
were added (like those on photographs or handwriting), we include
these materials as separate chapters. In a few instances, we break up very
long chapters from the original edition (for example, material on the
etiology of crime) into several parts for consistency and readability.
Within chapters, we eliminate many of the countless examples that
Lombroso presents in support of every facet of his theory. Lombroso
believed that an accumulation of examples—whether statistical, clinical, historical, or folkloric—increased the strength of his argument.
These examples are so repetitious and lengthy that it is impractical to
include them in a streamlined edition intended to keep the attention
of the reader. We have, however, included representative examples of
every kind of data used by Lombroso to make his mode of argumentation clear. Although our abridgment has resulted in a text that is more
manageable and direct than the original, we have also retained many
passages in which Lombroso’s analysis appears contradictory, pointing
out inconsistencies in our footnotes.
Lombroso wrote in formal, scholarly Italian, using medical and scientific terms that are today obsolete. To twenty-first-century Italians,
Lombroso’s language seems old-fashioned, difficult, and at times even
incomprehensible. Its datedness results in part from the passage of time
and in part from Lombroso’s own sloppy style and hasty writing.78
To educated contemporaries, Lombroso’s language would have seemed
appropriately learned, and among nonscientists, his obscure terminology might have increased his credibility; but because one of our goals
was to make Lombroso’s work accessible, we translated obscure words
into more familiar terms. We also tried to relax his prose style, making
it slightly more colloquial.We attempted to make his prose comprehensible to modern readers while preserving some of its formality.
Reading Criminal Man. Each edition of Criminal Man was introduced
by a preface, four of which we have excerpted at length (the preface to

e d i t o rs ’ i n t r o d u c t i o n 35
the fifth edition simply repeats material from earlier editions). Lombroso used these prefaces to set out his general theory, identify the topics he had added since the previous edition, and defend himself against
opponents. In translating these prefaces, we have tried to preserve the
tone of Lombroso’s dialogue with his critics, which combined mock
humility with combativeness and sometimes sarcasm.
Tables appear frequently in the original texts, usually in an unorganized and practically unreadable form. Unless otherwise noted, we include all the tables from each excerpt, but to make them more understandable, we sometimes rearranged the rows and columns, and we
added editors’ notes to identify statistical discrepancies within the tables
and between the tables and the text. In addition, since illustrations
were central to Lombroso’s project, this volume reproduces over forty
images, most drawn from the various editions of Criminal Man, but
some made by us during work in the Lombroso museum; we also accompany many of these with editors’ notes. Appendix 2 catalogues and
compares the illustrations in all five editions.
The text has two sets of footnotes: the first is Lombroso’s, the second constitutes our editorial annotations. We include all the notes appearing in the parts of Criminal Man that we translate; they appear as
footnotes at the bottom of the page. Lombroso’s citations indicate his
familiarity with a vast range of international scholarship and show that
researchers all over Europe were working on similar topics.We have not
attempted to translate Lombroso’s citations or correct errors in them,
partly because most of the works to which they refer were never translated, partly because leaving them the way he wrote them gives readers
a clear sense of his documentational decisions and procedures. (Similarly, we simply reproduce without translation the citations that Lombroso inserts directly into the text.) However, in the few cases in which
Lombroso uses footnotes to make substantive comments, we do translate his notes.
The second editorial set of notes follows the translated text; in these
entries we provide biographical data, historical information, explanations of terms, and glosses on difficult passages in the text. Readers
should also consult the glossary at the end of the volume for definitions
of terms common to nineteenth-century criminal anthropology.
A final word must be said about our use of terms that may seem
offensive to readers. In order to reproduce the flavor and intent of Lom-

36 c r i m i n a l m a n
broso’s language, we have retained his original terms, including savages
and primitives for nonwhite peoples; normal for noncriminal individuals; madmen for the mentally ill; and pederasts for homosexual men.
While these terms prove inappropriate for current academic analysis,
they were nev