Criminology Travis Hirschi
Trina Hope
  • LAST REVIEWED: 22 April 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 April 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396607-0107


Travis Hirschi was born on 15 April 1935, in Rockville, Utah. He earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology and history in 1957 and his master’s degree in sociology and educational psychology in 1958, both from the University of Utah. He was drafted in 1958 and spent two years as a data analyst for the US Army. After his time in the army, he entered the PhD program in sociology at the University of California at Berkeley. While at Berkeley, Hirschi became interested in the works of scholars such as Thomas Hobbes and Émile Durkheim, and he took courses from the eminent sociologist Erving Goffman. Both of these intellectual undertakings set the stage for his classical/control theory view of human nature and the causes of crime. He also took courses from, and worked as a research assistant for, Hanan Selvin, which lead him to acquire an interest in issues of measurement in the field of criminology, an interest that culminated in the publication of his first book. In 1964, Hirschi joined Alan Wilson, the director of the Richmond Youth Project. This research project provided Hirschi with the data he would use for his dissertation and first sole-authored book, in which he presented his theory of social control, described how the concepts were operationalized, and presented empirical tests of the theory alongside tests of learning and strain theories. While in the last stages of writing his dissertation, Hirschi took a job as an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Washington, Seattle. In 1974, Hirschi took a visiting professor job in the School of Criminal Justice at the State University of New York at Albany. This visiting professor position turned into a permanent one, and Hirschi remained at Albany for the next several years. In 1981, Hirschi joined the faculty in the Department of Sociology at the University of Arizona, where he remained until his retirement in 1997 (he remains an emeritus professor at Arizona). It was at Albany where Hirschi met Michael Gottfredson. Gottfredson and Hirschi collaborated frequently for the rest of Hirschi’s career. Hirschi is one of the most cited criminologists in the field, and his work continues to be relevant today.

General Overview

For the student or scholar looking for a single source that best captures Hirschi’s contribution to the field of criminology, The Craft of Criminology is that source (Hirschi 2002). Edited by John Laub, the book includes Hirschi’s most important works, including some that had not been reprinted since they were originally published. The book is unique in that, in addition to Hirschi’s key works, Laub provides a personal history of Travis Hirschi and excerpts from extensive interviews with him about his work, including the evolution of his ideas over time and his views about the field of criminology as a whole. Laub sums up Hirschi’s intellectual contributions nicely in his introduction, in which he states, “The trademark of Hirschi’s body of work is profound theoretical insights coupled with rigorous research methods. Over the last twenty-five years, more than any other scholar, Hirschi’s work has dominated intellectual discussion and created the research agenda for the field of criminology” (p. xli). Laub 2011 is an excerpt from the introductory chapter of Hirschi 2002.

  • Hirschi, Travis. 2002. The craft of criminology: Selected papers. Edited and with an introduction by John H. Laub New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.

    A compilation of Hirschi’s most influential work, including some pieces that had never been reprinted. An excellent overview of Hirschi’s contributions to the field of criminology.

  • Laub, John H. 2011. Control theory: The life and work of Travis Hirschi. In The origins of American criminology. Advances in criminological theory 16. Edited by Francis T. Cullen, Cheryl Lero Jonson, Andrew J. Myer, and Freda Adler, 295–331. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.

    An excerpt from The Craft of Criminology. Includes Hirschi’s personal and educational background, along with his career history. Also includes a discussion of Hirschi’s major works in the form of excerpts from interviews that Laub conducted. Finishes with a discussion of Hirschi’s legacy in the field of criminology.

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