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Academic year
Didactic period
Secondo Semestre

Training objectives

The main knowledge provided by the course are: (1) Knowledge of the main methodological problems of historiography and legal historiography regarding criminal law; (2) the relations between power of the State and criminal law, between legal science and political power; (3) the main punitive rationales in Middle Ages, modernity and between 19th and 20th centuries; (4) the impact of criminology on penal systems in Europe and the United States; (5) the characteristics of penal totalitarianism.
The abilities gained by students are: (1) understanding of different political strategies on which criminal systems are grounded; (2) understanding of the political and constitutional foundations of criminal law; (3) ability to compare criminal law sources of different areas understanding affinities, differences and mutual influences.


The courses of Medieval and modern law history; constitutional law, and private law; the course of History of modern constitutions and codifications is also recommended.

Course programme

The course examines the historical development of Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure in the medieval, modern and contemporary legal experiences, by studying exemplar institutions of substantial and procedural law. It analyzes the transition from a negotiated structure of justice, which was managed by individuals and groups, to a hegemonic one. In the latter, a subject who represents the public power regulates the trial, solves conflicts and inflicts punishments. The main topics are: the origin of the probing trial, the enforcement system in the Middle Ages, the criminal reform in the Enlightenment, the criminal codification in 19th century, the offender and the deviant behaviour, the criminal law schools in Italy in 19th and 20th century.
10 hours are dedicated to direct reading and examination of legal sources. 6 hours are dedicated to seminars with foreigner colleagues.

Didactic methods

Lectures. 2 classes (4 hours) will be dedicated to the analysis and reading of medieval texts in the specific part of the library dedicated to 'old and rare books'. IN particular, the classes will focus on problems related to medieval criminal procedure, the so called roman-canonical procedure. Three classes will be taught by invited professors.

Learning assessment procedures

Oral exam, based on 5/6 questions on both the medieval and the modern part of the course. Students will be asked to contextualize and explain texts and sources used during classes. The final mark (expressed in /30) will be the average of all the answers.

Reference texts

For those students who attend classes, the exam will be based on the subjects discussed during classes and on the texts and sources available on the website of the course.

For those students who have not attended classes, the program is as follows:

1. M. SBRICCOLI, "La penalistica civile. Teorie e ideologie nel diritto penale dell'Italia unita", in A. Schiavone (a cura di), Stato e cultura giuridica in Italia dall'Unità alla Repubblica, Roma-Bari, Laterza, 1990, pages 147-232.

2. G. NEPPI MODONA – M. PELISSERO, La politica criminale durante il fascismo, in Storia d’Italia. Annali, 12: La criminalità, a cura di L. Violante, Torino, Einaudi, 1997, pages 757-847.

3. M. SBRICCOLI, Le mani in pasta e gli occhi al cielo. La penalistica italiana negli anni del fascismo, in Quaderni fiorentini per la storia del pensiero giuridico moderno, XXVIII, 1999, pages 817-850 (download al link:

4. M. PIFFERI, La doppia negazione dello ius migrandi tra Otto e Novecento, in O. GIOLO, M. PIFFERI (a cura di), Diritto contro. Meccanismi giuridici di esclusione dello straniero, Torino, Giappichelli, 2009, pages 47-78.