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VICI voor Manon van der Heijden

Het Instituut voor Geschiedenis feliciteert Manon van der Heijden met het verkrijgen van een VICI-subsidie voor het onderzoek 'Crime and Gender 1600-1900: a comparative perspective.'

Hoezo zijn vrouwen altijd minder crimineel? Plegen vrouwen altijd en overal minder criminaliteit dan mannen? Dit onderzoek laat zien dat dit statische beeld niet klopt en legt een verband tussen de publieke rollen van mannen en vrouwen en hun aandeel in de criminaliteit in Europa tussen 1600 en 1900.

Summary in English

This project contests the assumption of criminologists that gender differences in recorded crime are static over time and that women are in general less likely to commit a crime than men. I argue that there is discontinuity rather than continuity in the contribution of men and women to criminality. Given the evidence of high female crime rates at times in the past, the need for a long- term historical approach to crime and gender has been stressed. However, so far no scholar has taken up the challenge. I present a new dynamic perspective, that of change and variation. This projects aims at developing an explanatory model of gendered crime patterns by providing a comparative analysis of crime and gender between 1600 and 1900 based on various primary sources.

My hypothesis is that gender differences in crime rates are strongly determined by the public roles attributed to men and women, which have varied over time and space. Scholars generally assume that women commit fewer crimes than men - and different crimes from men - because of the different nature of their public lives. Specific gender roles would also lead to prosecutors and courts treating men and women differently. However, this assumption has never been tested in a long-term comparative perspective.

The innovative character of the proposed research lies in the fact that it introduces a conceptual framework of public roles that looks at both ideologies regarding the role of men and women and practices in public life, and their impact on gender differences in recorded crime. This model distinguishes between various public activities of men and women, and links such roles to a set of five determinant factors: 1. Moral and legal norms 2. Urbanisation 3. Family structure 4. Labour participation 5. Living standards.

By comparing England, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, this project offers both quantitative and qualitative data to test the impact of public roles on gender differences in recorded crime in this part of the world. Such an analysis will be an important step in developing a European and global field of comparative historical studies that will help to explain gender differences in crime linked to the public roles of men and women in various areas of the world.