|Homicide on the Long Run : the Belgian Case (1830-1990)|
|This paper is the third and last in a series of three (Musin / Dauven-Rousseaux) that have sought to describe the evolution of homicides committed in « Belgian space » from the 14th century to the present. Our first point will involve evaluating changes in sources that occurred at the beginning of the 19th century and, above all, measuring the impact of those changes on our counting the number of homicides. At the dawn of State statistics, Belgium was a pioneer in the production of administrative statistics, under the influence of personalities like Quetelet or Ducpétiaux. Those official statistics, continuously produced since 1830, will be our principal source in this research. Once the ways of constructing the data base have been established, the rest of the text will be dedicated to exploring four critical elements in the comprehension of homicides committed in Belgian society.
The first questions the continuity and rupture between mid 19th century society and the Ancien Régime. Taking sources into consideration, can homicide be used as a vantage point in asking that question in terms of the evolution and continuity of ongoing processes, at a period when new political structures were being set up ? The second element seeks to explore and detail the stability in 19th century rates, in going beyond the rate for 100,000 inhabitants and in trying to detect mutations in a changing, industrializing society, where new actors and new social relationships appear and remain. Thus particular attention will be paid to the geography of homicides as well as to the evolution of relationships between victims and criminals. A third element is devoted to the first half of the 20th century and, particularly, the country’s two wartime occupations. Once again we shall look beyond the strict estimation of homicide figures by taking advantage of these occupation situations to study the evolution of violent behaviour and its wartime management, as well as for considering such crises to be « social stress », with everything that that can reveal about the state of a society. Finally, the last element considered involves the evolution of homicides during the second half of the 20th century in taking a direct look at the perceptible rise that took place during the 1960’s and 1980’s. After having evaluated the demographic impact, various hypotheses will open the debate on a question crisscrossing the four subjects : as to how the civilisation process has unfolded in Belgian space ? With its wars and a rise in homicide rates, does the 20th century represent an element of rupture in relation to this evolution ?