Criminal anthropology, or criminology, is a science, if one may call it such, of but recent development. Considering its subject-matter, and the number and prominence of its advocates, it is perhaps more intimately connected with criminal jurisprudence than with any other science. Although criminal anthropology is closely related to many other fields and lines of thought and work, the object here is to show its relation to jurisprudence only; and as a consequence other of its important lines of work are omitted in this discussion.
Anthropological criminology (sometimes referred to as criminal anthropology, literally a combination of the study of the human species and the study of criminals) is a field of offender profiling, based on perceived links between the nature of a crime and the personality or physical appearance of the offender. Although similar to physiognomy and phrenology, the term criminal anthropology is generally reserved for the works of the Italian school of criminology of the late 19th century (Cesare Lombroso, Enrico Ferri, Raffaele Garofalo). Lombroso thought that criminals were born with inferior physiological differences which were detectable. He popularized the notion of “born criminal” and thought that criminality was an atavism or hereditary disposition. His central idea was to locate crime completely within the individual and utterly divorce it from the surrounding social conditions and structures. A founder of the Positivist school of criminology, Lombroso hereby opposed social positivism developed by the Chicago school and environmental criminology.
The theory of anthropological criminology was influenced heavily by the ideas of Charles Darwin (1809–1882). However, the influences came mainly from philosophy derived from Darwin’s theory of evolution, specifically that some species were morally superior to others. This idea was in fact spawned by Social Darwinism, but nevertheless formed a critical part of anthropological criminology. The work of Cesare Lombroso was continued by Social Darwinists in the United States between 1881 and 1911.
In the 19th century, Cesare Lombroso and his followers performed autopsies on criminals and declared that they had discovered similarities between the physiologies of the bodies and those of “primitive humans”, monkeys and apes. Most of these similarities involved receding foreheads, height, head shape and size, and based on these Lombroso postulated the theory of the ‘born criminal’. Lombroso also declared that the female offender was worse than the male, as they had strong masculine characteristics.
Lombroso outlined 14 physiognomic characteristics which he and his followers believed to be common in all criminals: unusually short or tall height ; small head, but large face ; fleshy lips, but thin upper lip ; protuberances (bumps) on head, in back of head and around ear ; wrinkles on forehead and face ; large sinus cavities or bumpy face ; tattoos on body ; receding hairline ; bumps on head, particularly above left ear ; large incisors ; bushy eyebrows, tending to meet across nose ; large eye sockets, but deep-set eyes ; beaked or flat nose ; strong jaw line ; small and sloping forehead ; small or weak chin ; thin neck ; sloping shoulders, but large chest ; large, protruding ears ; long arms ; high cheek bones ; pointy or snubbed fingers or toes.
While criminal anthropology pursues its distinct method of investigation, and adopts an entirely different basis from that of jurisprudence, it is wholly dependent upon the latter, and can be of but minor practical service, except through the channels of legislation and the courts of justice. Law determines who shall constitute the criminal class upon the theory of the protection of society, and criminal anthropology, accepting this definition, attempts to determine the causes of crime, and the methods best adapted for its repression and prevention. It will be seen from its object that, if this science can be placed upon a sound foundation and some of the nonsense eliminated which characterizes it, as all new sciences, its service, in relation to the administration of justice, will be inestimable. In order to show the relation in which the two now stand it will be necessary to sketch the origin and development of each.
Criminal anthropology is a branch of sociology, and its purpose1 is to investigate crime scientifically: to study its origin and causes, and to determine, if possible, what proportion of responsibility belongs to society and what to the criminal. The remedies are to be examined as well as the causes, and also the effect of punishment as a means of reformation and prevention. From the nature and extent of its work, criminal anthropology may be said to comprehend three parts — general, special, and practical. The first consists in a summary and classification of all the facts known, and is used as the basis for further work ; the second includes the investigation of individual criminals, historically, physically, psychically, and socially, with a view to their analysis and the determination of the causes of crime; while the third embraces a consideration of methods and institutions for the repression and prevention of crime. Criminologists thus become those who study crime with reference to its origin, propagation, prevention, and punishment.