Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Dangerous Cities: Mapping crime in Amsterdam and Leiden, 1850–1913

To what extent did the street patterns in urban districts influence crime patterns?

2018  -   2018
Marion Pluskota
Research Traineeship Program Humanities Leiden University

Background and research questions

UCL Architecture’s Space Syntax Laboratory, which focuses on crime and urban design, concluded that there was ‘no correlation between crime and density, only a poor correlation between affluence and crime, but a very strong correlation between layout type and all kinds of crime, with traditional street patterns [relatively straight streets] the best and the most modern hierarchical layouts the worst’ (Hillier 2004). These results, regularly reprised by criminologists, have, however, never been tested in an historical context, which is what this project aims to do.


Two case studies have been selected: Amsterdam and Leiden, 1850–1913, based on the Arrondissementsrechtbank (Noord-Hollands Archief Haarlem) and Kantongerecht (Nationaal Archief The Hague) archives, respectively. Judicial registers in these archives detail c. 50,000 individuals charged for Amsterdam and 10,000 for Leiden from the mid-19th century onwards. Two types of information have been recorded, the personal details of the charged (name, age, civil status and employment) and details of the crime (where, what, when). These registers are an excellent source for a systematic analysis using databases and GIS applications, but they have rarely been studied.

Nationaal archief, Kantongerecht Leiden, 1838-1929,, 210.

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