David Downes' early work on delinquency in East London made an original contribution to the comparative study of anomie and subcultural theory, and social policy on education and employment. His research and writing went on to include the study of gambling, drugs policy and the state of criminological theory. His later work broke new ground in detailed, cross-national, comparative analysis of criminal justice and penal policy, in particular in relation to England and the Netherlands. A related endeavour was to contribute (with Rod Morgan) to the burgeoning study of the politics of crime control. He was a founding member of the National Deviancy Conference in 1968 and of the Mannheim Centre for Criminology and Criminal Justice at the LSE in 1989. He edited the British Journal of Criminology from 1985 until 1990. His most recent work (with Tim Newburn and Paul Rock) has been on the official history of criminal justice policy in England and Wales 1960-1997.