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Historical Analysis of the Law of Vagrancy

NCJ Number
Criminology Volume: 27 Issue: 2 Dated: (May 1989) Pages: 209-229
J S Adler
Date Published
21 pages
Important clues about the social origins of law are provided by changes in the definition of vagrancy and in the application of vagrancy laws.
Marxist criminologists hold that changes in the structure of the marketplace should explain shifts in the focus of the vagrancy law. Since 1964, William Chambliss's analysis of vagrancy law has provided criminologists with historical evidence that supported class-based explanations for the development of criminal law. Recent studies of vagrancy law have exposed important shortcomings in his model. Chambliss's analysis is shown to be flawed by a systematic examination of the history of the vagrancy law; therefore, criminologists should not cite his article as an authoritative source on the historical development of criminal law. 10 notes, 101 references. (Author abstract modified)


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