Ever since the man has descended on this earth, crime and criminal activities have been a major source of channelizing his energy. In fact, the very descend of man, according to the Abrahamic religions, from heaven to earth was a result of a crime, the Original Sin, that’s what the Christians named the famous incident of Adam and Eve of doing something forbidden.
A Criminal History Of Mankind by Colin Wilson evaluates with great detail the psychological reasons behind crime and violence and why man is inclined towards criminal activities. The writer contemplates on the motivations which result in crime and why only the human beings have proven themselves to be a creature who kill their own species without any particular reason or just for the sake of appeasement.
Of course, word “crime” is not just restricted to killing or murdering in general but Colin Wilson has, in majority portion of his book, kept the focus on murder, mass murder, rape and rape murder.
The book, as the name suggests, is a philosophical overview of the history of crime. Amazingly, despite being philosophical, psychological and historical in nature, one does not feel boredom while reading the majority parts of it.
I read the pdf version of it on the computer and man!!! what horrible experience that was to read such an exotic book on PC as you find it very difficult to read for too long but nevertheless, I completed the whole book and it took me two to three months in completing it. That sure sounds a great deal of time but this doesn’t mean that the book is a large one. In fact, its a book with 405 pages. The reason for such delay was of course, the “Reading On Computer” issue and secondly, I started to read this book in my office. Actually not in break timings but in normal office hours and I would read only one to two pages a day. Let us just hope that my boss isn’t fond of reading blogs. So the reason for such slow reading seems to be justified I guess!
Colin Wilson, in his book, reviews all the prominent personalities in the history who dominated, ruled or influenced the world during their time one way or the other. In addition to this the author goes way back to the pre-historic times and discusses the times from The Pecking Man to Neanderthal Man, from Greeks to Romans and from the Middle ages to to the modern “civilized” man. So one great benefit you would gain after reading this book is that your history knowledge is going to be revised.
Although, many say that the discussion of the pre-historic element of A Criminal History Of Mankind is rather week but I feel that it’s not a history book so such short comings can be easily ignored. Instead, it can be used as a book through which you can easily and quickly go through the human history.
Colin Wilson keeps the interest intact throughout the whole book by referring to the formidable crimes and discusses the psychological reasons behind such acts.
My favorite part of The Criminal History Of Mankind is the chapter in which the author discusses the role of hypnosis in influencing man’s actions. Like all other Laymen, I used to get intrigued and fascinated whenever I read or listened about an incident related to hypnosis and always thought of it as something magical. But the book succeeded in changing my views about it and I realized that the whole phenomenon is psychological rather than magical (what normally majority of the hypnotists purport it to be).
I think that a small clarification is really necessary related to some religious (Islamic) issue. On page 318 Colin wilson writes that “pigs were sacred to Mahommedans” (surely he means Muslims), what actually he is referring to is the incident in which the Muslim and Hindu Sepoys (troops) in British invaded India were forced to bite the end of the cartridges (manufactured from cow and pig fat) in order to load their guns. Both communities expressed their resentment leading eventually to a bloodshed as cows are sacred to Hindus and pigs are “Haram” (forbidden) in Islam because of their filthy nature. So the word, “Sacred” is totally the opposite of the word Haram and pigs are not sacred to Muslims in anyway.
The downside of this book is that after reading A Criminal History Of Mankind, the book filled with immense violence and human brutality, some part in me has started to think that in the West, the crime is in abundance and the serial killers are present at every block waiting for their next victim to fall for their bait. I know this is absolutely not the case, but that’s the impression the book involuntarily creates.
However, if you still haven’t read this book and luckily somehow you get your hands on it, I would reckon not to miss it. It’s a good read and you are definitely going to enjoy it throughout all your reading sessions.