Thursday, 16 August 2007

History of Violent Crime & Violent Death

The Historical Violence Database:A Collaborative Research Project on the History of Violent Crime and Violent Death
We envision the historical database as a complement to the computerized databases on crime and mortality that have been maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and by the National Institute of Health since the early 1970s, and to the database that will be created by the new National Violent Death Reporting System at the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia. In future years, the National Violent Death Reporting System will gather up to 200 details on each violent death in the United States (including, for instance, for each case of homicide, the length of the gun barrel if a gun was used, the level of education of the victim and perpetrator, whether drugs or alcohol were involved, etc.). Our historical database cannot be as comprehensive, because of gaps in the historical record and because of omissions (sometimes deliberate) by record keepers. The historical record is more complete, however, than many people realize. People in the early modern period, like people today, were deeply concerned about violent crimes and violent deaths. They kept abundant records of each. And the surviving records can be supplemented by the findings of forensic archaeologists, who can estimate the incidence of certain kinds of traumatic injuries from skeletal remains (Larsen 1997; Walker 1997, forthcoming; Roth 1999, 2001a). Our hope is that historical research, statistical analysis, and forensic science will enable researchers to trace the history even of such elusive crimes as child murder and spouse abuse.
The purpose of the collaborative database is to help scholars better understand violent deaths (homicides, suicides, and accidents) and serious assaults (attempted murders, sexual assaults, arsons, maimings, aggravated assaults). The database will allow social scientists to test their theories of violent crime and violent death in a variety of historical circumstances. The database will also allow historians to share their research so that others can build upon it. Many historians who have written on violent crime or violent death (usually on the state or county level) failed to preserve their notes or to share their research. Thus, their evidence cannot be checked for accuracy or reanalyzed. We hope that the collaborative database will help social scientists transcend the limits of contemporary data and historians the limits of irreproducible local studies, so that we can better describe and explain the history of violent crime and violent death.
The project report is available online by using the menu to your left, or you can view the report as a PDF [205 KB].

No comments: