College of Arts & Sciences Distinguished Professor
106 Dulles Hall
230 Annie & John Glenn Avenue
Areas of Expertise
- US History to 1877
- US History since 1877
- Environment, Health, Technology, and Science
- Human Conflict, Peace, and Diplomacy
- Power, Culture, and the State
- Race, Ethnicity, and Nation
Randolph Roth is a professor of History and Sociology at Ohio State and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has served as a member of the National Academy of Sciences Roundtable of Crime Trends (2013-2016), which investigated the causes of the drop in crime rates across the affluent world since the 1970s, and as a member of the Editorial Board of the American Historical Review (2014-2017). He specializes in the history of the United States from colonial times to the present, with an emphasis on social and cultural history, the history of crime and violence, environmental history, the history of religion, the history of democracies, global history, quantitative methods, and social theory. In 2022, he received the inaugural Distinguished Scholar award from the Historical Criminology division of the American Society of Criminology.
Professor Roth is the author of American Homicide (The Belknap Press of the Harvard University Press, 2009), which received the 2011 Michael J. Hindelang Award from American Society of Criminology for the outstanding contribution to criminology over the previous three years, and the 2010 Allan Sharlin Memorial Prize from the Social Science History Association for an outstanding book in social science history. American Homicide was also named one of the Outstanding Academic Books of 2010 by Choice. The book is an interregional, internationally comparative study of homicide in the United States from colonial times to the present. It examines patterns of marital murder, romance murder, and other kinds of murder among adults in an effort to understand how and why the United States has become the world’s most homicidal affluent society. It argues that homicides rates in the United States and elsewhere in the Western world "are not determined by proximate causes such as poverty, drugs, unemployment, alcohol, race, or ethnicity, but by factors...like the feelings that people have toward their government, the degree to which they identify with members of their own communities, and the opportunities they have to earn respect without resorting to violence."
In 1995, Professor Roth received the Clio Award for Distinguished Teaching in History from the Phi Alpha Theta Honor Society at Ohio State. In 2007, he received the Distinguished Teaching Award from the Ohio Academy of History. In 2009, he received the Ohio State University Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching. In 2013, he received the Outstanding Teaching Award from the College of Arts and Sciences Student Council. And in 2017, he received the Rodica C. Botoman Award for Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching and Mentoring, College of Arts and Humanities
Professor Roth is currently completing Child Murder in America, a study of homicides of and by children from colonial times to the present. It will be a companion volume to American Homicide. Child Murder in America will argue that the causes of murders of children are quite different from the causes of murder among adults. He is also the principal investigator on the "National Homicide Data Improvement Project, 1959-present," a collaborative project which is funded by the National Science Foundation and the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation.
Professor Roth is co-founder and co-director of the Historical Violence Database. The HVD is a collaborative project to gather data on the history of violent crime and violent death (homicides, suicides, accidents, and casualties of war) from medieval times to the present. The web address for the Historical Violence Database is:
The HVD is supported by the Criminal Justice Research Center at Ohio State. It is described in "The Historical Violence Database: A Collaborative Research Project on the History of Violent Crime and Violent Death." Historical Methods (2008) 41: 81-97. Co-authored with Douglas L. Eckberg, Cornelia Hughes Dayton, Kenneth Wheeler, James Watkinson, and Robb Haberman. Professor Roth’s publications on crime and criminal justice include "Getting Things Wrong Really Does Help, as Long as You Keep Trying to Get Things Right: Developing Theories About Why Homicide Rates Rise and Fall" in Michael D. Maltz and Stephen Rice, eds., Envisioning Criminology: Researchers on Research as a Process of Discovery (2015); “Emotions, Facultative Adaptation, and the History of Homicide,” American Historical Review (2014); “Gender, Sex, and Intimate-Partner Violence in Historical Perspective,” in Rosemary Gartner and William McCarthy, eds., Oxford Handbook on Gender, Sex, and Crime (2014); “Scientific History and Experimental History,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History (2013); "Measuring Feelings and Beliefs that May Facilitate (or Deter) Homicide," Homicide Studies (2012); "Biology and the Deep History of Homicide," British Journal of Criminology (2011); "Homicide Rates in the Nineteenth-Century West," with Douglas Eckberg and Michael Maltz, Western Historical Quarterly (2011); "Spousal Murder in Northern New England, 1791-1865," in Christine Daniels, ed., Over the Threshold: Intimate Violence in Early America, 1640-1865 (1999); "Child Murder in New England," Social Science History (2001); "Homicide in Early Modern England, 1549-1800: The Need for a Quantitative Synthesis," Crime, Histories, and Societies (2001); "Guns, Gun Culture, and Homicide: The Relationship between Firearms, the Uses of Firearms, and Interpersonal Violence in Early America," William and Mary Quarterly (2002); and "Twin Evils? Slavery and Homicide in Early America," in Steven Mintz and John Stauffer, eds., The Problem of Evil: Slavery, Freedom, and the Ambiguities of American Reform (University of Massachusetts Press, 2007). His methods essays include "Is History a Process? Nonlinearity, Revitalization Theory, and the Central Metaphor of Social Sciences History," Social Science History (1992); "Did Class Matter in American Politics? The Importance of Exploratory Data Analysis," Historical Methods (1998); "Guns, Murder, and Probability: How Can We Decide Which Figures to Trust?" Reviews in American History (2007); and "Scientific History and Experimental History," Journal of Interdisciplinary History (2013). His works on religion and reform include The Democratic Dilemma: Religion, Reform, and the Social Order in the Connecticut River Valley of Vermont, 1791-1850 (Cambridge University Press); and "The Other Masonic Outrage: The Death and Transfiguration of Joseph Burnham," Journal of the Early Republic (1994).
Professor Roth’s research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, and other organizations. He is a member of the editorial boards of Homicide Studies and Crime, History, and Societies. He has served as a member of the Advisory Board for the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic, as member of the editorial board of Historical Methods, and as the coordinator for the Methods and Theory Network of the Social Science History Association. He is an active member of the American Society of Criminology, the Social Science History Association, the American Historical Association, The Organization of American Historians, the Society of Historians of the Early American Republic, the Homicide Studies Working Group, the Society for the Scientific Detection of Crime, and the Advisory Board of the Ohio Violent Death Reporting System.