Skip to main content

An Eye for an Eye

A Global History of Crime and Punishment

Mitchel P. Roth


List Price: 35.00*
* Individual store prices may vary.


From “an eye for an eye” to debates over capital punishment, humanity has a long and controversial relationship with doling out justice for criminal acts. Today, crime and punishment remain significant parts of our culture, but societies vary greatly on what is considered criminal and how it should be punished. In this global survey of crime and punishment throughout history, Mitchel P. Roth examines how and why we penalize certain activities, and he scrutinizes the effectiveness of such efforts in both punishing wrongdoers and bringing a sense of justice to victims.
Drawing on anthropology, archaeology, folklore, and literature, Roth chronicles the global history of crime and punishment—from early civilizations to the outlawing of sex crimes and serial homicide to the development of organized crime and the threat today of global piracy. He explores the birth of the penitentiary and the practice of incarceration as well as the modern philosophy of rehabilitation, arguing that these are perhaps the most important advances in the effort to safeguard citizens from harm. Looking closely at the retributions societies have condoned, Roth also look at execution and its many forms, showing how stoning, hemlock, the firing squad, and lethal injection are considered either barbaric or justified across different cultures. Ultimately, he illustrates that despite advances in every level of human experience, there is remarkable continuity in what is considered a crime and the sanctions administered.
Perfect for students, academics, and general readers alike, this interdisciplinary book provides a fascinating look at criminality and its consequences.

Praise For An Eye for an Eye: A Global History of Crime and Punishment

“Roth’s effort is forceful, scholarly yet easily readable, informative, sometimes even entertainingly informative, and, lastly, provocative. . . . The book is crammed with interesting facts and statistics and dozens of fascinating and sometimes gory anecdotes that have been brought together through disciplined and thorough research.” 

— Los Angeles Review of Books

“A fascinating and well-written piece of research.”

— Law, Crime, and History

“Roth’s clear, straightforward, interdisciplinary approach in analyzing crime and punishment worldwide and his global perspective provide an engaging look into criminality and its consequences. Students, academics, and general readers can all benefit from this work. . . . Highly recommended.” 

— Choice

Reaktion Books, 9781780233598, 304pp.

Publication Date: February 15, 2015

About the Author

Mitchel P. Roth is professor of criminal justice and criminology at Sam Houston State University, Texas. His many books include An Eye for an Eye: A Global History of Crime and Punishment, also published by Reaktion Books. Roth is the 2020recipient of the Frederic Milton Thrasher Award for "Superior Accomplishments in Gang Research" from the National Gang Crime Research Center and Journal of Gang Research.