Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Assaulting the past (but not our readers)

I'm pleased to announce that a book to which I contributed is at last seeing the light of day.

Assaulting the Past: Violence and Civilization in Historical Context, edited by Katherine D. Watson, is now available to order from Cambridge Scholars Press. (Incidentally, Katherine D. Watson also published an excellent book about poisoning a few years ago, information about which you can find here.)

As the blurb puts it:

This book offers an important contribution to the comparative history of interpersonal violence since the early modern period, a subject of great contemporary and historical importance. Its overarching theme is Norbert Elias's theory of the civilizing process, and the chapters in the book recognise, as he did, that changes in human behaviour are related to transformations of both social and personality structures. Drawing on a vast range of archival and written records from five countries, the contributors explore the usefulness of the theory—the subject of much debate over the past two decades—to explaining long-term patterns in violence, but also point to the need for further empirical and comparative studies, to reflect current thinking and developments within historical, criminological, and sociological methodologies.

In approaching the subject from a variety of perspectives, Assaulting the Past: Violence and Civilization in Historical Context presents a comparative and qualitative assessment of violent behaviour and the experience of violence. Approaches used include the empirical and the theoretical, and the book is strongly interdisciplinary, drawing on the history of crime, history of medicine, criminology and legal history. The volume seeks to offer new insights on violence, the individual and society, to further illuminate the links between state formation, social interdependency and self-discipline that are so integral to the theory of the civilizing process.
The book arose out of what I thought was a wonderful 2005 conference that Katherine organised (and organised very well, I must say) and which was hosted by Oxford Brookes University. I have many fond memories of the conference, where I met several people whose work I had long respected and some others whose scholarship I had the first opportunity to get to know.

(The conference had the misfortune to commence on the same day as the 7/7 bombings in London, events which -- even though terrorism was not among the specific topics on offer -- certainly hung heavily over the next few days of discussion and debate about violence, disorder, cruelty and processes of 'civilisation'.)

Among this volume's varied and fascinating contributions, I'm pleased to say, you will find an essay of mine, 'Locating Violence: The Spatial Production and Construction of Physical Aggression'.

Other topics include: domestic violence, serial murder, insanity, violent/homicidal women, interpersonal animosities, ritual sacrifice, disorder, the prosecution of assault, state regulation of violence, social pacification (and its breakdown), blasphemy, and developments in moral sensibilities.

Please spread the word along to anyone you know who might be interested. And if you're interested but can't afford it yourself, get your local or university library to buy a copy.

You'll be glad you did.

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