The Roots of Violent Crime in America: From the Gilded Age through the Great Depression, Barry Latzer
The central argument of Barry Latzer's The Roots of Violence Crime in America is that high rates of violence in the United States, and their ebb and flow across time and place, can be explained largely by subcultures of violence that both tolerate and encourage violent self-help. These cultures were imported to the United States by various immigrant groups, mainly the Scots-Irish in the south; Italian, Irish, and Black migrants in the north (Black Americans having learned violence from southern Whites); and Mexicans and, to a lesser degree, Chinese, in the west. Latzer draws on a combination of primary and secondary data, including arrest, conviction, and imprisonment reports, as well as census data, and focuses on regional comparisons, along with several northern and west coast cities, from the late nineteenth century through the Great Depression. Latzer is careful to acknowledge the limitations of the data and makes a concerted effort to triangulate from multiple sources.
Latzer's basic thesis is worthy of consideration. Violence can flourish when people resort to violent self-help to resolve disputes. That some cultural contexts—the Scots-Irish in the south, for example—display a legitimation of such violence is plausible. This seems most likely in contexts where formal institutions for resolving conflicts are weak, nonexistent,
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