Professor Sir Anthony Bottoms

Emeritus Professor, based in the Institute

Present positions:

Emeritus Wolfson Professor of Criminology, University of Cambridge, and Life Fellow of Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge; Honorary Professor of Criminology, University of Sheffield; Co-Director of the Centre for Penal Theory and Penal Ethics in the Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge.

Honours and Awards:

Appointed Knight Bachelor, 2001, for services to the criminal justice system. Fellow of the British Academy since 1997. Honorary Fellow of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and recipient of honorary degrees from Sheffield University (LL.D.), Queen's University, Belfast (LL.D.), and Malmö University (Ph.D.). Presented with the European Criminology Award by the European Society of Criminology (2007) for lifetime contributions to European Criminology, and the Sellin-Glueck Award by the American Society of Criminology (1996) for international contributions to criminology.


Anthony Bottoms read law as an undergraduate at Oxford, and then became a student on the first ever full-time postgraduate course in criminology in the UK, held at Cambridge in 1961-2. After a short period as a probation officer, he returned to Cambridge as a research assistant to F. H. McClintock in a study focused on institutional training for young adult males. In 1968 he moved to the Faculty of Law at Sheffield University as that university's first dedicated Lecturer in Criminology, later becoming its first Professor of Criminology in 1976. While at Sheffield he became interested in urban crime and socio-spatial criminology, publishing The Urban Criminal (with J. Baldwin) in 1976. In 1984 he again returned to Cambridge as Wolfson Professor of Criminology (a post he held until 2006) and as Director of the Institute of Criminology (1984-1998). As Director of the Institute, he inaugurated the Institute's two successful part-time Master of Studies courses for criminal justice professionals: in policing (from 1996) and in penology (from 1998).


Professor Bottoms' research interests are wide-ranging. In the early part of his career, he worked mainly in socio-spatial criminology and on several different aspects of penology (prisons; probation; suspended sentence; youth justice), although he also completed a study of defendants in court which is still cited (Defendants in the Criminal Process 1976, with J. D. McClean). His most influential penological study is probably Prisons and the Problem of Order (1996, with Richard Sparks and Will Hay), a study of control and compliance in two maximum security prisons. That research, and other cognate research in the 1990s, led to a broad interest in issues of social order and compliance and their relevance for criminology; and these have remained the principal preoccupations of Professor Bottoms' research since the mid-1990s. In more recent years, this has resulted in a special focus on two topics: (1) legitimacy and criminal justice, on which he has written theoretical analyses with Dr Justice Tankebe; and (2) desistance from crime, which led him to establish the Sheffield Desistance Study, an empirical study of desistance and persistence among male young adult recidivists, co-directed with Professor Joanna Shapland at the University of Sheffield (to which he returned as a part-time professor from 2002 to 2007, conjointly with his Cambridge post). These interests in social order and compliance have increasingly led Professor Bottoms to advocate greater interdisciplinary collaboration between criminologists and moral and political philosophers, and he tries to promote those links through his continuing work with the centre for Penal Theory and Penal Ethics, founded by Professor Andreas von Hirsch.

Public Service:

Professor Bottoms has acted as an adviser to official bodies on many occasions. For example, he was a member of the Home Office's Research and Advisory Group on the Long-term Prison System from 1984 to 1990, and he has on three occasions acted as a Specialist Adviser to the House of Commons Northern Ireland Affairs Committee for its inquiries on prison-related matters (1998; 2003-4; 2007). In Scotland, he was appointed by the Scottish Government to write a report on the structure and content of criminological research in that country, and this report led directly to the establishment in 2005 of the inter-university Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research.