Emile Noël Fellow
Fall 2009

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Michele Pifferi is a lecturer of Medieval and Modern Law History and of Criminal Law History at the Faculty of Law, University of Ferrara. Research Project: Individualization of Punishment and Social Defence in the Criminal Law of the Early Twentieth Century.

Dr. Michele Pifferi is currently Lecturer of Medieval and Modern Law History and of Criminal Law History at the Faculty of Law, University of Ferrara.  Since 2002, he has also been a Visiting Researcher at the Max Planck Institut für Europäische Rechtsgeschichte in Frankfurt am Main working on a project concerning criminal justice in sixteenth century.  

Dr. Pifferi holds a doctorate in the History of Law from the University of Macerata.  He has also been awarded a fellowship by the Juridical Science Department of Ferrara where he will be responsible for coordinating an interdisciplinary project on the legal devices of immigrants’ exclusion. Dr. Pifferi also regularly participates in the activities of the Centro Studi per la Storia del Pensiero Giuridico Moderno in Florence.

Dr. Pifferi’s present main scientific focuses are on the criminal law justice both in Europe and United States in the XVIIIth and XIXth centuries and on the juridical regulation of migrants.  While at the Jean Monnet Center, Dr. Pifferi plans to conduct research on the topic of “Individualization of Punishment and Social Defence in the Criminal Law of the Early Twentieth Century.”

Research Project:

Individualization of Punishment and the Rule of Law. The Crisis of the Legality Principle in the US and Europe between the 19th and 20th Century.

The main aim of Dr. Pifferi’s research is to investigate the origin of the dispute on the adaptation of punishment to the personality and possible dangerousness of the criminal. This very origin is to be found in the massive debate in juridical science between Europe and the USA at the beginning of the twentieth century. Thanks to the circulation of ideas proposed by the criminological school, the objective of penal law turned into a social defence and prevention of crime.

The Individualization of punishment, indeed, is nowadays one of the most important topics in European and international criminal law. The extent of the problem is the possibility to adjust the penal system to a multicultural society which considers the different cultural or ethnic character as a criterion to personalize the punishment. Moving from this contest, the research proposal concerns the origins of the individualized punishment between the nineteenth and the twentieth century, with a comparative approach in European and American doctrines and legislations.

The expected results of the Fellowship are the elaboration of this topic in American criminal theories and the corresponding analysis of the American legislation and jurisprudence, with a special focus on the proposed balances between the individual guarantees in criminal law and the preventive treatment of the dangerous subject at the beginning of the twentieth century. This comparative and historical approach should allow an overall comprehension of the problem of individualization, with the possibility of offering an original contribution to the history of criminal law in our modern culture, useful to understand some current criminal tendencies as well.