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

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)
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 StevensonThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
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. RowlingThe Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. TolkienHarry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
Over 500 pages!!!!
350th out of 351 books — 84 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 780)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
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.

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?
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.

+ 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

+ 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
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...)
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.
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.
Really interesting
Vvssb Shankar
An awesome book part scholarly and exhaustive in its scope.
interesting but full of rambles
Alexander Nolan
Alexander Nolan is currently reading it
Feb 22, 2015
Nicholas marked it as to-read
Feb 21, 2015
Daniel marked it as to-read
Feb 19, 2015
Anna marked it as to-read
Feb 22, 2015
Kayla Boesche
Kayla Boesche marked it as to-read
Feb 14, 2015
Crystal Friars
Crystal Friars marked it as to-read
Feb 14, 2015
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 25 26 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Is criminality and its progression through time quantifiable? 2 5 May 19, 2012 03:43AM  
  • Going Postal: Rage, Murder, and Rebellion from Reagan's Workplaces to Clinton's Columbine and Beyond
  • Fatal: The Poisonous Life of a Female Serial Killer
  • Rothstein: The Life, Times, and Murder of the Criminal Genius Who Fixed the 1919 World Series
  • Delivered from Evil: True Stories of Ordinary People Who Faced Monstrous Mass Killers and Survived
  • Jack the Ripper: The Facts
  • Panzram: A Journal of Murder
  • America's Dumbest Criminals: Wild and Weird Stories of Fumbling Felons, Clumsy Crooks, and Ridiculous Robbers
  • The London Monster: A Sanguinary Tale
  • The Father of Forensics: The Groundbreaking Cases of Sir Bernard Spilsbury, and the Beginnings of Modern CSI
  • Angel Killer: A True Story of Cannibalism Crime Fighting and Insanity in New York City
  • Drugs, Oil & War: The United States in Afghanistan, Colombia & Indochina
  • The World's Most Bizarre Murders: True Stories That Will Shock and Amaze You
  • Madness: A Brief History
  • Too Good to Be True: The Rise and Fall of Bernie Madoff
  • Dark Nature: Natural History of Evil, A
  • 1888: London Murders in the Year of the Ripper
  • Portrait of a Monster: Joran van der Sloot, a Murder in Peru, and the Natalee Holloway Mystery
  • The Profiler: My Life Hunting Serial Killers and Psychopaths
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...
The Outsider The Occult The Mind Parasites The Philosopher's Stone Mysteries

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