Criminal Responsibility and Its Histories: New Perspectives for Comparative Legal History

Michele Pifferi


This article discusses the implications for comparative legal history of Nicola Lacey’s In Search of Criminal Responsibility. I emphasize the importance of both diachronic comparison and comparison between different legal systems to analyze the changing patterns of responsibility- attribution, focusing on four themes: (1) the rationalization of a general part of criminal law by late-medieval European doctrine; (2) the growth of regulatory offenses and the changing boundaries of criminal law in the nineteenth century; (3) the role of character in sentencing and the creation of security measures under the influence of scientific criminology; and (4) the political meaning of capacity-based responsibility and the underlying idea of individual freedom in authoritarian penal systems.

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