ABSTRACT

Historically, attention has focused on the idea of the urban, or the city, as having a specific causal role in crime and violence. For example, the eighteenth-century magistrate and author Henry Fielding (1751) railed against the crime, vice and pursuit of pleasure emerging in the ‘common’ classes of London, while the Victorian journalist Henry Mayhew (2008 [1895]) published an influential text exploring ‘the culture of poverty and the criminal classes’ in hidden corners of London in the mid to late nineteenth century. Similarly, some of the sociologists of the Chicago School, writing in the rapidly expanding Chicago of the 1920s, argued that particular areas of the city – which they referred to as ‘zones in transition’ – were so fast changing, transient and neglected, that they allowed crime and vice to become dominant social forms (Burgess, 1967 [1925]; Reckless, 1926) along with other transgressions and enticements offered by the anonymity of the city. In these analyses the city was typically viewed as a social and moral problem, a repository for advanced civilisation and accomplishment not offered by rural society, but also an inducement to transgression. Such examples immediately draw attention to a long history of concerns, specifically around the problem of the ‘urban’.