Command and Persuade: Crime, Law, and the State Across History

MIT. Oct. 2021. 480p. ISBN 9780262045629. $34.95. LAW
Baldwin’s (history, UCLA; The Copyright Wars: Three Centuries of Trans-Atlantic Battle) ambitious volume traces the history of policing, imprisonment, and crime across the world, covering a span of centuries. While seemingly no topic is off-limits, the philosophy of crime and punishment takes center stage here: Baldwin explores, at length, questions about what should and shouldn’t be punished, whether punishment deters crime, the relationship between religion and law, and the role of the state versus private and community spheres in policing. Baldwin makes interesting points and offers intricately detailed examples, but he bounces quickly from one topic, era, or location to the next, with little room for transitions. While the book’s introduction and conclusion provide helpful framing, it remains difficult to take in so much content in a meaningful, cohesive way.
VERDICT Historians, criminologists, and those with a strong academic interest in policing and criminal justice will learn a great deal from this book. Readers looking for a more casual or introductory exploration of what it means to punish crime will likely find other resources more suitable.
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