Notebooks

Personal Violence

03 Oct 1994 12:02

As opposed to organized violence, like war. I'm not sure whether family feuds or gang warfare fits.

Frequency over historical time. In the US. In other industrial countries. In non-industrial contries. History of impulsive violence. Gun trade.

In Landscapes of Fear, Yi-Fu Tuan quotes the following estimates for the homicide rates (number of persons killed per year per 100,000 people) in several jursidiction of medieval England, averaged over a few decades: Bedford, Kent: 28; Warwick: 19; Norfolk: 9; Bristol: 4; London: 8--15. Since the 1930s, Britain has averaged 0.4 --- but the United States, since 1974, a far more traditional 9.7. That is to say, by this very basic measure we are not a civilized country. (Some more recent but not strictly comprable numbers come from the Economist, 22 Oct. 1994, supplement, p. 4: homicides ``of males, by males'' per year per 100,000: USA 12.4, EU 1.6, Japan 0.9. No variance is supplied, so I can't say whether the difference between the EU and Japan signfies.) Query: what has made the Europeans so much more peaceful than their ancestors? And why are Americans so much more violent than other industrial peoples? (We are also much more religious and we have many more guns. Would the NRA sponsor an inquiry into the effects of wide-spread belief in immortality on homicide rates, I wonder?)


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