“one of the foundation studies of modern social science”
By GUERRY, André-Michel, 1883
Essai sur la Statistique Morale de la France
- Author: GUERRY, André-Michel
- Publication place: Paris
- Publisher: Chez Crochard, Libraire, Rue et Place de l’École-de-Médecine
- Publication date: 1883.
- Physical description: Folio (360 by 250 mm), six engraved maps, loose sheet with manuscript notes and figures in contemporary hand, printed paper over boards.
- Inventory reference: 14317
The book contains six maps of France: showing crime rate against people; crime rate against property; literacy rates; number of illegitimate births; charity donations; and suicide rates. Guerry’s results were “startling for two reasons. First he showed that rates of crime and suicide remained remarkably stable over time, when broken down by age, sex, region of France and even season of the year; yet these numbers varied systematically across départements of France… Second, he overturned some widespread beliefs about the nature and causes of crime and its relation to other observable factors, such as education and poverty” (Friendly). He was also interested in recording the motives behind crimes — finding, for instance, that poisoning was often motivated by adultery and murder by hatred — and the ‘Essai’ contains “perhaps the first content analysis in social science” when he classifies suicide notes left in Paris according to the reasons given for death.
Guerry’s work was important because it provided a “launching pad for much of modern social science”, raising the “possibility to conceive, for the first time, that human actions in the social world were governed by social laws” (Friendly).