Studying online

There are now 2 possible online modes for units:

Units with modes Online timetabled and Online flexible are available for any student to self-enrol and study online.

Click on an offering mode for more details.

Unit Overview


At the turn of the 21st century, the United States, esteemed as the “land of the free,” developed one of the most extensive prison systems in the history of the world. This unit draws on the tools of historical analysis, bolstered by criminological and sociological theories, to unpack this profound contradiction. Based on the dictum *nullem crimen sine lege* (there is no crime without law), it introduces students to key events in US history and key concepts in the historical sociology of crime, deviance, and rebellion, via foundational categories of identity and difference: race, class, gender, dis/ability, sexuality, citizenship, Indigeneity, and alienage. Drawing on topics ranging from witchcraft trials to indefinite detention in the War on Terror, from fugitive slaves to unfree Indigenous labor in Spanish missions, from lynch mobs to the death penalty, from police militarization to prisoners' rights movements, and from border policing to mass immigrant deportation, students will assess the ways in which notions of crime and deviance have evolved in historical contexts to produce a massive American carceral state, and the social movements that have emerged to challenge it.

6 points
(see Timetable)
Semester 2UWA (Perth)Face to face
Semester 2AlbanyFace to face
Details for undergraduate courses
  • Level 2 option in the History; Criminology; Criminology and Criminal Justice major sequences
  • Level 2 elective

Students are able to (1) assess the basic historiographical issues characteristic of US History through the lens of crime and punishment; (2) evaluate the historiographical problems posed by interrogating the histories and theories of crime and punishment in the United States; (3) demonstrate a detailed understanding of the US histories of punishment; (4) locate appropriate sources for research essays; and (5) present arguments in both written and oral assessments using the conventions of the historical discipline.


Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) research essay; (2) annotated bibliography; and (3) participation. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Student may be offered supplementary assessment in this unit if they meet the eligibility criteria.

Unit Coordinator(s)
Associate Professor Ethan Blue
Unit rules
Completion of 12 points
Contact hours
lecture/workshop: up to 3 hours per week for 12 weeks.
  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Unit readings, including any essential textbooks, are listed in the unit outline for each unit, one week prior the commencement of study. The unit outline will be available via the LMS and the UWA Handbook one week prior the commencement of study. Reading lists and essential textbooks are subject to change each semester. Information on essential textbooks will also be made available on the Essential Textbooks. This website is updated regularly in the lead up to semester so content may change. It is recommended that students purchase essential textbooks for convenience due to the frequency with which they will be required during the unit. A limited number of textbooks will be made available from the Library in print and will also be made available online wherever possible. Essential textbooks can be purchased from the commercial vendors to secure the best deal. The Student Guild can provide assistance on where to purchase books if required. Books can be purchased second hand at the Guild Secondhand bookshop (second floor, Guild Village), which is located on campus.
  • Contact hours provide an indication of the type and extent of in-class activities this unit may contain. The total amount of student work (including contact hours, assessment time, and self-study) will approximate 150 hours per 6 credit points.