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A Criminal History of Mankind
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A Criminal History of Mankind

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  284 ratings  ·  22 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 (first published 1984)
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Community Reviews

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Stevedutch
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
Raegan Butcher
Apr 13, 2008 Raegan Butcher rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: college students
Titanic tome dealing with humanity's misdeeds from Ancient Greece to the present day.
Peter Sims
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.

Howe
...more
Bryn Hammond
Old, outdated, and the man cannot know everything.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?
Psipsipsi
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
مي
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
...more
Andrea Ta-wil
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
Caroline
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
...more
Ann M
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
...more
Murray Brown
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
Read it 4-5 times.
Evolution of crime impulses throughout mankinds history.
Not a book of absolute 'thruth' but speculative.
Old school erudition.
Meaghan
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
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.
Foundinbooks
ups:

+ 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

downs:

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


= quite a long read, 700+ pages
Raluca
ups:

+ 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

downs:

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


= quite a long read, 700+ pages
dersteppenwolf
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...)
Mocara
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.
David
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.
Judith
Really interesting
Vvssb Shankar
An awesome book part scholarly and exhaustive in its scope.
Ahmed
interesting but full of rambles
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Is criminality and its progression through time quantifiable? 2 5 May 19, 2012 03:43AM  
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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
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The Outsider The Occult The Mind Parasites The Philosopher's Stone Mysteries

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“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.” 17 likes
“The worst crimes are not committed by evil degenerates, but by decent and intelligent people taking 'pragmatic' decisions.” 11 likes
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