Professor Manuel Eisner

Professor of Comparative & Developmental Criminology

B.A., Ph.D.


Manuel Eisner is Professor of Comparative and Developmental Criminology and Director of the Social Science Research Methods Programme at the University of Cambridge. He is also Director of the Violence Research Centre. Previously he was Associate Professor of Sociology at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. He has published 15 authored or edited books and over 100 journal articles and book chapters in English, German, and French. Professor Eisner is a member of several editorial and advisory boards of academic journals and book series. He was awarded the Fellowship of the Society of Experimental Criminology in 2006 and is this year’s recipient of the Sellin-Glueck award by the American Society of Criminology.

The academic work of Professor Eisner revolves around two main areas, namely research on macro-level historical patterns of violence and research on individual development and the causes and prevention of aggressive behaviour.

selected publications and working papers available online

Historical Violence Research

Professor Eisner's research on the history of interpersonal violence comprises, amongst others, an innovative study on levels of homicide across Europe over a period of over 800 years ( see, e.g. "Long-Term Historical Trends in Violent Crime", Crime and Justice: A Review of Research , Vol. 30). This study has become a landmark in our knowledge on historical patterns of interpersonal violence. More particularly, Professor Eisner was first to conclusively demonstrate a long-term pattern of declining homicide across Europe and to empirically show geographic variations in these patterns. This research has had a profound impact on how sociologists and criminologists think about long-term trends in interpersonal violence and their relationship to the evolution of modern society. For example, his research has highlighted the ways in which cultural models of conduct of life, embedded in social institutions, have shaped patterns of daily behaviour among adolescent and young adult men, which in turn influenced the likelihood of frictions leading to aggressive behaviour.

A recent study has examined long-term trends in elite violence by examining the frequency of regicide in all major European Monarchies between 600 and 1800 AD ("Killing Kings", in British Journal of Criminology, 2011, 51(3), 556-577).

Developmental Research on the Causes of Aggression

Professor Eisner is also an expert on the developmental causes of crime and delinquency as well as the effectiveness of early prevention during childhood. He is currently conducting a unique large scale longitudinal study in Switzerland, the Zurich Project on the Social Development of Children, z-proso.

Z-proso is a longitudinal study that examines the social development of 1200 children who entered primary school in 2004. It is combined with a randomized field trial on the effectiveness of two early prevention programmes, one targeting parenting skills and the other promoting social, cognitive, and emotional skills in the school setting. At present the longitudinal study comprises four waves of data collection between ages 7 and 11. Z-proso is thus one of only a handful of studies worldwide that combine a long-term longitudinal and an experimental design, allowing for assessing durable effects of early prevention efforts until adolescence. Based on this study Professor Eisner has published, amongst others, on the methodological challenges of conducting criminological research in multicultural contexts, the use of event history calendars for measuring life events, and the implementation of universal prevention programs (e.g. "Conducting a Criminological Survey in a Culturally Diverse Context." European Journal of Criminology, 2007, 4(3)).

He has recently published a paper on the potential impact of conflict of interest on evaluation research in criminology that has stimulated a debate with contributions by Prof. Lawrence Sherman and Prof David Olds (Journal of Experimental Criminology, 2009, Vol 5, 2).

Ph.D. Students

Students who consider applying for a PhD under my supervision should contact me by email with a short summary of their research proposal before submitting an application. I mainly supervise doctoral theses that use a quantitative approach in the following areas:

  • History of violence research
  • Causes of aggression and violence
  • Prevention and intervention research
  • International research on micro and macro-level predictors of violence.

There may be possibilities to conduct a Ph.D. related to on of my on-going research projects. Please contact me for further information.

Selected Publications and Working Papers