In the 1989 – 90 academic year, it was my pleasure to take over the course on General Criminology from the late Prof. Steven de Batselier, a course that had been taught for decades as part of the special programme in criminology at KU Leuven's Faculty of Law. It was my intention from the very start to write an introduction to general criminology for the many students taking the course – both criminology undergraduates and faculty of law graduates – that would facilitate both absorbing the course material and studying it independently. At the same time, I wished to take the opportunity aff orded by writing such an introduction not only to make the course suitable for the many law students but also to align it with the ideas that I had about how such an introduction should be structured.
For me, that meant two things. On the one hand, it seemed desirable for various reasons to devote considerable attention to the long history of criminology, in the West in general and in Belgium and the Netherlands in particular. The main reason was and is, however, that without thorough knowledge of that history it is difficult to understand the contemporary developments in theory, research, and practice. On the other hand, I considered it necessary to write not merely a kind of “history of ideas” in criminology but also to show how closely that history has been associated – right up to the present day – with the evolution of criminal law and the administration of criminal justice, and more generally with the combatting of crime in all its forms and varieties.
But actually writing such an introduction proved to be no simple matter. At that time, for instance, because of the absence of systematic and thorough research it was virtually impossible to write a historical introduction to criminology and criminal justice that would, at the very least, properly represent the history of criminology in Belgium and the Netherlands, and its influence on the organisation and operation of the criminal justice systems in those countries.