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Beccaria, Cesare Bonesana


Political economist credited with ushering in modern criminal law and penal practice; b. Milan, March 15, 1738; d. Milan, Nov. 28, 1794. Beccaria was of a noble family, attended the Jesuit college at Parma, and graduated in jurisprudence from the University of Pavia in 1758. Although diffident about his formal education, he was prompted by his association with the intellectual circle of Pietro and Alessandro Verri to write his Tratto dei Delittie delle Pene (1764), first published anonymously, and translated into English as Essay on Crimes and Punishments. It was received so enthusiastically throughout the Continent that by 1770 it had appeared in three Italian editions, had been translated into French and English with prefaces attributed to Voltaire, and had received approbation from Catherine the Great, as well as from the monarchs of Naples and Austria. Beccaria acknowledged his debt to Jean Jacques rousseau, Charles de montes quieu, and the encyclopedists, for he was in the mainstream of rationalist thought; his influence on Jeremy bentham is clear, and they are linked as the founders of the classical school of criminology. Although others had rebelled at the barbarity of prevailing penal practices, it was Beccaria who systematically set forth the principles that punishment should be proportionate to the crime and serve the sole purpose of societal protection.

Bibliography: e. monachesi, "Pioneers in Criminology: Cesare Beccaria," The Journal of Criminal Law, Criminology and Police Science 46 (1955) 439449.

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