Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “A Criminal History of Mankind” as Want to Read:
A Criminal History of Mankind
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

A Criminal History of Mankind

3.95  ·  Rating Details  ·  373 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews
Colin Wilson tells the story of human violence from Peking Man to the Mafia - taking into account the calculated sadism of the Assyrians, the opportunism of the Greek pirates, the brutality that made Rome the 'razor king of the Mediterranean', the mindless destruction of the Vandals, the mass slaughter of Genghis Khan, Tamurlane, Ivan the Terrible, Vlad the Impaler and mor ...more
Hardcover, 702 pages
Published February 28th 2006 by Mercury Books
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about A Criminal History of Mankind, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about A Criminal History of Mankind

Macbeth by William ShakespeareThe Complete Fairy Tales by Hans Christian AndersenThe History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia by Samuel JohnsonThe Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis StevensonLong Day's Journey Into Night by Eugene O'Neill
Names Indicating a Filial Relationship
56th out of 158 books — 13 voters
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. RowlingHarry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. RowlingHarry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. RowlingHarry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. RowlingThe Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Over 500 pages
357th out of 358 books — 90 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,194)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jan 31, 2013 Stevedutch rated it it was amazing
Once again Colin Wilson has produced a brilliantly readable book, which takes the reader on a whistle-stop tour through the killing fields of history and, in the process, reminds us that we appear to be the only species in creation to derive pleasure from meting out pain and suffering on our fellow creatures. What is more, we have, it seems reasonable to claim, the uniquely human qualities of imagination and ingenuity to ensure that the cruelties we inflict on others reflect those qualities in t ...more
فتحي سرور
أحد الكتب المحزنة بشدة،ليس لمحتواه-ليس بالنسبة لي على الأقل-بل لأن كاتبه أبدع في الجزء الصعب ثم أخفق في السهل فأنهار البناء.

فمن حيث المادة:الكتاب غني بمادة وافية نتيجة بحوث مطولة في الموضوع عبر سجلات الجرائم ونظريات علم النفس و الأبحاث العلمية و النفسية،أما من حيث الأسلوب:فدعوني أعلق بأختصار"دوخيني يا لمونة"...الأسلوب مهترأ و الكلام يتقاطع-بل و يتناقض-بشكل فج دون تدخل من الكاتب للتوضيح و أزالة الألتباس،ناهيك عن أن أسلوبه يتحول أحياناً من سئ لكارثي في بعض المواضع أهمها كلامه عن التنويم المغناطيسي
Raegan Butcher
Apr 13, 2008 Raegan Butcher rated it liked it
Recommends it for: college students
Titanic tome dealing with humanity's misdeeds from Ancient Greece to the present day.
Aug 07, 2011 Psipsipsi rated it really liked it
The book has several strands, not completely woven together. There is encyclopedic detail of documented crimes in the last two centuries. But who would read an encyclopedia from cover to cover?. And so I eventually skipped the long accounts, but may return to them for reference. There is a neuropsychological theory of criminality based on Sperry's split brain work, and an interesting theory of hypnosis. As far as I am aware his theories survive the new knowledge of the last 30 years. There is a ...more
Ahmed El-Kelany
الكتاب شيق وبه قدر كبير جدا من المعلومات والجرائم الفردية والجماعية أغلبها يتركز بالقرن الماضي وتحليلها، ومعرفة دوافع الجريمة وجوهرها والإجابة عن سؤال: لماذا الإنسان هو الكائن الوحيد الذي يفتك بأبناء جنسه

"هذا بعيدا عن الملل في الجزء الأخير وبفصل كامل عن التطور و"أسلافنا من القردة !
Peter Sims
Mar 21, 2010 Peter Sims rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was by title alone one of the most interesting looking books in my dad's library and when I finally read it in my teenage years, I couldn't stop thinking about it. It's very densely packed with information and written engagingly enough that it avoids the "list of facts" syndrome many similar books produce. And re-reading it some eight years later, it still held up perfectly. One of my highest non-fiction recommendations and anyone remotely interested in criminology should pick this up.

Raeda Nairoukh
May 18, 2016 Raeda Nairoukh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
كولن ولسون يخلص في كتابه الى ان الجريمة ( ابنة الحضارة و التقدم و ضريبتها) وكلما ازددنا تقدما ؛ارتفعت نسبة الاجرام مستدلا بقياس نسبة انتشار الجريمة ونوعيتها ،مقارنة مع تطور الجنس البشري عبر التاريخ ، كما ويعرض لنظرية هرم ماسلو للاحتياجات الانسانية( قاعدة الهرم الحاجات الفسيولوجية من اكل و شرب، ومن ثم حاجته للسكن و الانتماء وحاجته للجنس وحاجته للتقدير وفي قمة الهرم حاجة الانسان لتحقيق الذات)
ويرى ان الجرائم عبر التاريخ تتوافق مع ترتيب حاجات الانسان وفق هرم ماسلو، ففي البدء كان القتل لتأمين المأكل
Jul 18, 2015 Salma rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
كتاب ممتع .. موضوعه شيق ذو اسلوب بحثى و مجمع معلومات و نظريات كتير لكن الاهم ف نوعيته من الكتب انه قدر يحافظ على التشويق ومخلاش المعلومات النظريه تتحول لملل لغير المختص .. فيه بعض النقط حسيتها محتاجه بحث اكتر و تأكد قبل ما يبنى عليها نظرياته لكن بشكل عام مستوى الكتاب جيد
موضوع مهم و اتمنى يكون ف اختيارات قرايه وبحث كتير من الناس
Bryn Hammond
May 27, 2014 Bryn Hammond rated it it was amazing
Old, outdated, and the man cannot know everything. But I went through my Colin Wilson phase and read these 700 pages with mental excitement. Big questions anyone?
Lola White
محاولة لتفسير سبب العنف و الجرائم عند البشر و تطور اسبابه مع تطوّر البشرية, كما يحاول الكاتب شرح اسباب تطوّر الذكاء عند البشر.
Aug 20, 2013 مي added it
As someone with colin's knowledge i thought he would know the real truth and the correct information
But as in the informations about muslims , first shiites muslims are not who believe that ali bin abu taleb should be caliph instead of abu baker
They believe that ali is better than prophet muhammad peace be upon him, they despise and hate caliph omar bin al khattab and prophets wife aisha
They have different beliefs in Islam than sunnah muslims "and sunnah means those who follow the correct path
Andrea Ta-wil
Dec 07, 2013 Andrea Ta-wil rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book from the now defunct "Cats Meow" in Ann Arbor, MI as an undergrad. The cover was all scuffed up, so they knocked it down to $10 from $14 or something like that. (view spoiler) ...more
Nov 17, 2012 Caroline rated it liked it
This is a truly fascinating exploration of the violence inherent in mankind, its history and evolution, and why mankind out of all creatures is so prone to violence.

Every age is prone to its own particular brand of violence, and Wilson argues that can roughly be mapped out according to Maslow's hierachy of needs: that, for example, when mankind's primary concern was finding food, most acts of crime and violence were connected to obtaining food and water, i.e. robbery. When food was no longer a p
Goran Ovčariček
Feb 15, 2016 Goran Ovčariček rated it really liked it
It is a formative book, one that isn't without it's flaws, but it certainly was a necessary step to form today's knowledge on human criminality, the development of human brain and the insight into human struggle to overcome his/hers desires. The author is surprisingly open to all kinds of influences and his ratio most of the time manages to curb any premature judgments. The book itself is a great practice in rational thought.
Qahtan Yassin
May 14, 2016 Qahtan Yassin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
كتاب يحوم حول علم النفس الاجرامي و يورد أمثلة زاخرة ، و يربط ربط مباشر ما بين تطور البشرية من جهة و بين عدائية البشر من جهة اخرى .والكاتب مؤمن بنظرية دارون صاحب كتاب أصل الأنواع والذي يرجع أصول البشر للقردة .احدى اهم الأفكار التي وردت في طيات الكتاب هي اكتشاف السهم و القوس و التي نقلت إنسان نيادرتال من طور الصيد الجماعي الى طور الصيد الفردي و من ثم شكلت قفزة نوعية لمراحل التطور البشري اللاحقة.
Ann M
Jun 05, 2008 Ann M rated it really liked it
Interesting, so far. He relates crimes to Maslow's hierarchy of needs: there are subsistence crimes (stealing food), security crimes (killing family rivals), sex crimes, self esteem crimes, and finally, crime as self-expression. He discusses the why of crime, a childish shortcut to a guarantee of fame, and the overlaps among the categories.

Then he goes on to discuss evolution, and there are quite a few howlers (pain, not laughter), sexist, racist, among the interesting ideas in this book. He so
Lawrence Mcgovern
Feb 15, 2016 Lawrence Mcgovern rated it it was amazing
can't get enough Colin Wilson! remember picking this book up as a teen and being immediately spellbound, such rich writing and so informative.
Murray Brown
Sep 30, 2011 Murray Brown rated it liked it
This book really deserves no more than 3.5 stars but the subject matter is fascinating enough for it to be distinguished. It gives an account of trends in criminality throughout history, attributing sociological forces shaped by an evolving psychology in humankind. Although there were many profound insights into human nature and motivations towards crime and how societal influences manifested changes in individual behaviours over time, I was often left dissatisfied with the causal analysis, whic ...more
Roy Martin
Jan 30, 2014 Roy Martin rated it it was amazing
Read it 4-5 times.
Evolution of crime impulses throughout mankinds history.
Not a book of absolute 'thruth' but speculative.
Old school erudition.
When Wilson says he's writing a history of mankind, he's not kidding! This book covers the full sweep of human history from before Homo sapiens to the 1970s. (I have the first edition, published in 1980.) It encompasses not only true crime but gobs of history, sociology, psychology and philosophy, and alludes to many and various classic books and essays. It must have taken Wilson years to research this thing. If you've a mind for an ambitious reading project (700 pages), this book is as good as ...more
Paul Marin
Feb 27, 2013 Paul Marin rated it liked it
The book is a bit of a slog, but the author's segues are so smooth that if you're not paying close attention you'll find yourself reading about another aspect of criminality completely different from what was read a few paragraphs before. The book is largely a general history book going from Greek times to the last few hundred years, then the author goes into more detail about man's criminality.

If you like history, you'll probably like this book. If you don't, it will absolutely bore you.
Dec 30, 2012 Foundinbooks rated it really liked it

+ highly informative, very well documented
+ very wide time frame, human crime history is covered from Ancient times to the present day
+ I had tons of "I didn't know that" moments reading it
+ versatile crime analysis perspective: psychological, social, evolutionary, historical, religious


- I would have liked a bit more information on 19th - 20th century crime

= quite a long read, 700+ pages
Mar 10, 2011 Raluca rated it really liked it

+ highly informative, very well documented
+ very wide time frame, human crime history is covered from Ancient times to the present day
+ I had tons of "I didn't know that" moments reading it
+ versatile crime analysis perspective: psychological, social, evolutionary, historical, religious


- I would have liked a bit more information on 19th - 20th century crime

= quite a long read, 700+ pages
Dec 10, 2011 dersteppenwolf rated it liked it
Interesante el comienzo donde trata de explicar los aspectos sociales y sicológicos del crimen así como su evolución a través del tiempo.
Dada su fecha de publicación -1984- es evidente que este libro requeriría una versión actualizada dada la "maravillosa" evolución del tema en los últimos 30 años.
La parte con detalles históricos es un poco aburrida. (Demasiados detalles y poco análisis...)
Jun 26, 2015 Rogerpasqua rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic book although a bit outdated since it was written some 30 years ago. Wilson's encyclopedic take on the matter and kinetick prose makes this book thoroughly enjoyable. The only thing I missed was a more in depth take on Torquemada and the spanish inquisition. Besides that, it is a must read for those fascinated with the subject.
Apr 13, 2011 Mocara rated it really liked it
Interesting insight into the minds of murders.
The pre-historic elements are weak, but then as we are talking about before recorded history, any book on that subject is weak.
I would recommend this as a read but as with all books on philosophy, take it with a pinch of salt.
Apr 14, 2016 David rated it really liked it
This is another of Wilson's interesting books that is worth looking at for its unusual take on the world that surrounds us. I wouldn't take it all that seriously but it is an interesting 'alternative' reading of human criminality.
Ayoub Ezzaher
Jul 01, 2015 Ayoub Ezzaher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
كتاب ثري جدا يبحث فيه كولن ولسن الجريمة من زوايا مختلفة في القرن العشرين عودة بنا إلى القرون القديمة ليستحضر أرقام و نماذج على الصعيدين الفردي و الجماعي مركزا على الجانب النفسي.
Sep 05, 2014 Judith rated it liked it
Really interesting
Vvssb Shankar
An awesome book part scholarly and exhaustive in its scope.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 39 40 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Is criminality and its progression through time quantifiable? 2 5 May 19, 2012 12:43PM  
  • Going Postal: Rage, Murder, and Rebellion from Reagan's Workplaces to Clinton's Columbine and Beyond
  • Rothstein: The Life, Times, and Murder of the Criminal Genius Who Fixed the 1919 World Series
  • Fatal: The Poisonous Life of a Female Serial Killer
  • Delivered from Evil: True Stories of Ordinary People Who Faced Monstrous Mass Killers and Survived
  • Jack the Ripper: The Facts
  • America's Dumbest Criminals: Wild and Weird Stories of Fumbling Felons, Clumsy Crooks, and Ridiculous Robbers
  • The Jack the Ripper A to Z
  • Portrait of a Monster: Joran van der Sloot, a Murder in Peru, and the Natalee Holloway Mystery
  • Lustmord: The Writings and Artifacts of Murderers
  • Angel Killer: A True Story of Cannibalism Crime Fighting and Insanity in New York City
  • Death Scenes: A Homicide Detective's Scrapbook
  • The World's Most Bizarre Murders: True Stories That Will Shock and Amaze You
  • Dark Nature: Natural History of Evil, A
  • The London Monster: A Sanguinary Tale
  • The Profiler: My Life Hunting Serial Killers and Psychopaths
  • The Father of Forensics: The Groundbreaking Cases of Sir Bernard Spilsbury, and the Beginnings of Modern CSI
  • Delusions of Grandeur
  • Madness: A Brief History
Colin Henry Wilson was born and raised in Leicester, England, U.K. He left school at 16, worked in factories and various occupations, and read in his spare time. When Wilson was 24, Gollancz published The Outsider (1956) which examines the role of the social 'outsider' in seminal works of various key literary and cultural figures. These include Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, Ernest Hemingway, Her ...more
More about Colin Wilson...

Share This Book

“It is far easier to write an angry letter than to go and say angry things to another person - because as soon as we look in one another's faces we can see the other point of view.” 18 likes
“The worst crimes are not committed by evil degenerates, but by decent and intelligent people taking 'pragmatic' decisions.” 16 likes
More quotes…