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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: January 2020

2 - Explaining Crime and Gender in Europe between 1600 and 1900


Based on prosecution data for the period 1600–1900, this chapter re-assesses existing literature to stress the importance of discontinuity and variations in female crime rates in Europe. Women’s share among criminal offenders was not static and even reached significant levels throughout the early modern period. This chapter identifies five contextual factors as having an influence on female crime rates: urbanisation, moral norms, legal norms, family systems and living standards. With regard to the nineteenth century, it suggests that the link between industrialisation, removal from the labour market and the decline of female crime rates was by no means clear. On the contrary, it seems that the rising living standards and the development of the welfare state in Europe had a greater impact on female crime rates than a hypothetic confinement to the house.