Sociological Explanations of Crimes in Late Imperial China: 1744-1903


This study utilized the historical Chinese capital crime statistics between the years 1744 and 1903 to examine national crime patterns in late imperial China. To the extent of the data permitted, the paper investigated both overall national and regional capital crime patterns, patterns of six different capital crimes such as robberies, sex offenses, premeditated homicides, killings in affrays, crimes against authority, and salt smuggling, as well as how capital crime patterns related to macro socio-economic conditions and rapid changes in China. The theory of social disorganization and theory of anomie were applied to discern the dynamics of crime patterns and social conditions. Findings in this study suggest that crimes fluctuated in response to population pressures, natural disasters, foreign wars, and domestic conflicts. Among different types of crimes recorded, killings in affrays together with premeditated homicides usually constituted about 70 percent of the total crimes. Property crimes were common especially during economic hardships.


Sociology and Anthropology

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International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice