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Cesare Bonesana, Marchese di Beccaria (Marquis of Beccaria), the pioneer of Classical School of Criminology was born in Milan, Italy on March 15, 1738. At the age of 26, he penned Dei delitti e delle pene - On Crimes and Punishments, a treatise which was considered as the pioneering work in penology. This was the only major work produced by Beccaria, yet, it propelled penology and penal reform into great heights and it was celebrated as the first complete text on penology.

In Dei delitti e delle pene he argued a reform of both criminal law and penal practices and voiced rational principles. In this treatise Beccaria also presented his arguments against capital punishment. The major principles that guided Beccaria in his work were: the principle of social contract and the principle of free will.

Dei delitti e delle pene was in many ways an amalgamation of ideas and it was influenced by Montesquieu, Voltaire and Rousseau. Beccaria believed in the concept of the social contract which was influenced  philosophers and intellectuals at the time. He argued laws should be used to maintain the social contract and the laws should be created only by legislators.

Beccaria believed in the principle of free will.  As the classical school accepted the free will principle based on the pleasure-pain  hedonistic purposive behaviour, similar to Bentham’s Felicitous Calculus. Under this principle laws must be clearly elucidated and written and not open to free interpretations of the judges and the jurists.

He argued the laws should be applied equally to all the people and punishment should be based on the act not on actor.  While considering penal reforms, Beccaria argued punishment should be prompt and effective and capital punishment should be abolished.

He believed in punishment as a deterrent yet argued against severe punishment . Beccaria disagreed the  use of torture to gain confessions  and supported the idea that punishment should be determined by the crime.  Prevention of crime is more important to him than the punishment, and appropriate, swift, and inevitable punishment is the key deterrence than the punishment.

Beccaria’s classical school influenced legal systems in many parts of the world and the idea of a blind scale of justice may be traced back to Beccaria’s idea of impartial and equal law and justice. Despite the weakness in his ideas in criminological and penological thoughts which were also the weakness of classical school of criminology, Cesare Beccaria’s venture into the criminal law reform was great and trailblazing.

Beccaria's work Dei delitti e delle pene -
On Crimes and Punishment
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Cesare Beccaria
(1738 - 1764)



































» See Also Classical School      


lux et veritas

Fiat justitia ruat caelum

Injuria non excusat injuriam

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