The Psychology of Murder - by Andreas Bjerre - PDF ebook

The Psychology Of Murder  A Study In Criminal Psychology 


The Psychology Of Murder

Andreas Bjerre’s work, “The Psychology of Murder" is an extremely fascinating book, which not only the expert but also whoever is interested in psychological or social questions may read with great profit. The subject has attracted many writers before Bjerre — philosophers, doctors, lawyers, and essayists. But Bjerre has approached the problem from an entirely new point of view. He has not contented himself with wide generalizations, or with the treatment of such second-hand material as criminal statistics, reports of trials, hospital and prison journals or other superficial data, however, obtained.


He has devoted many years of his Ufe to the first-hand study in Swedish prisons in order by constant personal association with criminals to solve the riddles hidden away in the dark places of their psychic lives. The first fruit of these studies was published in 1907 in a treatise on the psychology o^ theft. But whereas that work presented more general observations on certain criminal types, in “ The Psychology of Murder ” the author has selected three entirely disparate individuals and has penetrated into depths and shadows of their lives unknown even to themselves.


In the introduction to his work, the author has given an interesting account of his methods, which must be of great assistance to subsequent enquirers. This study, conducted with great thoroughness and profound psychological intuition, opens up new possibilities of research in a field that is of the utmost importance to our social life. But the author is not only a pre-eminent criminal psychologist; his work is stamped with considerable literary talent. 

He draws his criminal types with the artistic breadth and the reader follows his analysis of the course of action ith something of the tenseness which he experiences in the study of a drama by a master hand. In his own country, he has been compared with Dostojevski, and it has been said by experts that in the gift of penetration into the psychic life of criminals he far surpasses that master.

Andreas Bjerre was born in March 1879. in Gothenburg. After having passed the examination for the degree of B.A. at Upsala in 1900, he continued his studies in Paris and Lund, where he took the degree of Bachelor of Laws.

 He then prosecuted his studies at Berlin, Oslo, Copenhagen, and Stockholm, and began his psycho-criminological observations in Sweden’s largest central prison at Langholmen in Stockholm. In 1909 he took the degree of Master of Laws and submitted a treatise on “ The Conception of Wrongfulness in Causes of Defamation ” for his doctorate in law. After having continued his studies in the prison, he was in 1919 appointed Professor of Criminal Law at the University of Dorpat, and in 1921 to the chair of legal philosophy. He was compelled by bad health, however, to resign his chair at the end of the spring term in 1925, and on November 22nd of the same year, he died at Tyringe in Sweden.

The present studies in criminal psychology, which constitute the first of a series of contributions to the psychology of murder, are based, like my already published studies in criminal psychology, on investigations conducted in the Central Prison at Langholmen, Stockholm, where, thanks to the extraordinary courtesy of the Director-General and Head of the Royal Board of Prisons, Mr Viktor Almquist, I was afforded the opportunity for exhaustive conversation with a large number of all sorts of criminals, and where I devoted myself more especially to the study of the psychology of murderers.

I may be permitted, by way of introduction to these essays on the psychology of various criminal t5rp>es, to give a very brief account of the objects I have had in view, of the methods I have followed, and also of my position with reference to certain relevant problems which inevitably force themselves upon the attention m investigations of this kind, but which cannot be stable treated in the accounts of the psychic development of the various criminals.

 During my theoretical studies of criminal psychology — and especially during the time when I worked m Professor von Liszt's criminal institute at the University of Berlin — I had already come to the definite conclusion that modem criminal psychology had reached a stage in its development at which It was necessary to advance from gener^ and indirect, essentially statistical, investigations to the personal observation of the criminal. 

Criminal psychology is, as is well known, a young science, scarcely more than half a century old. It is natural and proper, therefore, that the founders and creators of this young science should, like the pioneers in every other science, have first of all sought to gain a perspective over the new field of enquiry which they had opened up, which, though it might furnish a general orientation, must nevertheless be relatively superficial and uncertain.

 They left to their successors the task of penetrating by means of more exact research more deeply into the realities of their science, and of constructing for it a more stable foundation. It seems to be equally evident that the science of criminal psychology must now advance to a detailed investigation unless it is to become stereotyped and fade away in a number of predetermined theses and generalizations concerning the nature of criminals, which, in the nature of things, must be more or less superficial and uncertain. 

Such detailed investigation is, however, so far as I can discover, only possible by personal observation, ie., by visits to prisons and by personal contact with the criminals themselves. My view of the immediate problems of criminal psychology in our day has been strengthened and confirmed to an unusual degree by my practical work among criminals. My object in these studies has therefore been to investigate as fully as possible everything I have observed and everything which has occurred in the psychic life of the criminal.
This introduction is not the proper place in which to seek to establish the correctness of my conception of the essential functions of the science of criminal psychology in its present stage of development. I hope instead in the near future to be able to prepare for publication a series of lectures on the history of criminal psychology, which I delivered some years ago. At present, I desire merely to present the first causes of the object I had in view in these studies.

Author: Andreas Bjerre
Publication Date: 1927

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