Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Law

Contact Details

  • Room: 2.02, Liberty Building
  • Office Hours:
    Mondays, 14.00-15.00; Tuesdays - 11.00-12.00
  • Tel: 0113 343 7115
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Dr David Churchill

Lecturer in Criminal Justice

I started academic life as an historian, during which time I developed particular interest in issues of crime and justice.

I was awarded an MA in History from the University of Cambridge and a PhD in History from The Open University.

I have taught at the University of Leicester and Birkbeck, University of London, and I held the Economic History Society Anniversary Research Fellowship at the Institute of Historical Research in 2013-14. I first came to Leeds as a research fellow in 2014, before taking up my current role the following year.

Research Interests

Reflecting my academic background, my research is in historical criminology and criminal justice history. This kind of research involves working across disciplines, linking history with criminology and the social sciences. Specifically, I work on subjects related to policing, security and crime control in modern Britain, and I have published several articles on these topics. At present, I am engaged in three major research projects.

The first project assesses the roles of the police and the civilian public in urban crime control. It addresses how crime was policed in the Victorian city by analysing how institutions of crime control (particularly the police) were organised, and by reconstructing the practices of crime prevention, apprehension, detection and resolution at this time, in terms of both ‘official’ policing and ‘unofficial’ civilian crime control.

To date, this project has produced articles and essays on police governance, police-public relations, popular justice and the historiography of modern criminal justice. Further work on urban crime control and on the politics of the police is in progress.

The second project investigates security technologies and the historical development of the modern security industry. Focusing on the security hardware industry (particularly locks, safes and strong rooms) this project contributes a historical perspective to the commodification of security and the technological development of security since the late eighteenth century.

Work so far addresses the role of security product marketing in reshaping attitudes towards crime and security in the past. Ongoing research focuses on ideas of risk and responsibility in urban crime prevention, and on the co-evolution of security technologies and criminal techniques.

The third project concerns public parks and the urban social order. This is a collaborative research project, conducted in conjunction with Anna Barker (University of Bradford) and Adam Crawford (University of Leeds). We are interested in the social purpose of urban public parks – both at the time of their foundation (in the Victorian era) and today – and the relationship between this social purpose and everyday experiences of the park and its regulation.

In addition to these projects, I have interests in several other areas of criminology and criminal justice, including victimisation, prosecution and the criminal justice process, and the interface between crime and technology.


I contribute to teaching on the BA in Criminal Justice and Criminology. Specifically, I coordinate ‘Criminal Justice Study Skills’ at level one, and I teach ‘Policing’ and ‘Crime, Law and Social Change’ at level three. I also supervise undergraduate dissertations.

PhD Supervision

I welcome proposals from students interested in any topic of historical criminology, whether concerned with crime, policing, security, justice or punishment. I would be delighted to discuss any such ideas with prospective applicants, and to advise on crafting proposals which incorporate an historical perspective.

In addition, I would like to hear from students with interests in my areas of research expertise – especially civilian crime control, policing, security technologies and the security industry – either in an historical or a contemporary context. For more details, please see my ‘Research Interests’, above.

Key Publications

Journal articles

  • Churchill D, ‘Security and visions of the criminal: Technology, professional criminality and social change in Victorian and edwardian Britain’, British Journal of Criminology, 56.5 (2016), 857-876
    DOI: 10.1093/bjc/azv092, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/88867/

    © The Author 2015. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies (ISTD). All rights reserved.The later 19th century saw the formation of two distinct visions of serious criminality. Previous studies of the weak-willed, 'degenerate' offender, have neglected the simultaneous appearance of the modern professional criminal. This essay reveals that the rise of the security industry in the Victorian era served to reshape notions of criminal professionalism, imbuing them with a new emphasis on the technical proficiency of thieves. This image of the criminal provided an outlet for ambivalent reflections on social and technological change, much as similar, high-security visions of the criminal have ever since. Hence, this essay both traces the origins of a neglected aspect of modern criminological thought and reconstructs the historical role of security provision in shaping visions of the criminal.

  • Churchill D, ‘The spectacle of security: Lock-picking competitions and the security industry in mid-victorian britain’, History Workshop Journal, 80.1 (2015), 52-74
    DOI: 10.1093/hwj/dbv018, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/83078/

  • Churchill D, ‘I am just the man for Upsetting you Bloody Bobbies': popular animosity towards the police in late nineteenth-century Leeds’, Social History, 39.2 (2014), 248-266
    DOI: 10.1080/03071022.2014.912424, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/82388/

    Most historians of police-public relations in the later nineteenth century have asserted that popular animosity towards the police rested on the contexts of specific encounters, rather than any broader, principled opposition to the police as an institution. However, scholars have yet to engage with the voices of the policed, and have instead relied on inferring popular attitudes from other evidence. This article uses police occurrence books from three out-townships of Leeds to explore popular responses to the police in unprecedented detail. It highlights how various norms within working-class culture – domesticity, masculinity, communal autonomy – precipitated opposition to the exercise of police authority. Moreover, it demonstrates that hostile reactions to the police were motivated both by the contexts of particular interactions and underlying, unsavoury notions of the police as an institution. Hence, police-public relations can only be adequately understood as an interaction between these two factors.

  • Churchill D, ‘Rethinking the state monopolisation thesis: the historiography of policing and criminal justice in nineteenth-century England’, Crime, Histoire et Societes/Crime, History and Societies, 18.1 (2014), 131-152
    Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/82390/

    This article reviews how historians have interpreted the changing relationship between crime, policing and the state in nineteenth-century England. Specifically, it traces the influence of the state monopolisation thesis – the idea of the ‘policed society’. The impact of this model is assessed by comparing studies of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century criminal justice, and exposing stark discontinuities in their treatments of key subjects. This article proceeds to critique the state monopolisation thesis, before outlining priorities for further research. These new directions promise to lead to a more sophisticated account of the governance of crime in modern England, and to return nineteenth-century criminal justice history to the study of ordinary people and their lived experiences. (Cet article examine la manière dont les historiens ont interprété l’évolution de la relation entre la criminalité, l’action de la police et l’État dans l’Angleterre du XIXe siècle. Plus spécifiquement, il retrace l’influence de la thèse de la monopolisation par l’État – l’idée d’une « société policée ». Le poids de ce modèle est évalué en comparant des travaux relatifs à la justice pénale des XVIIIe et XIXe siècles, et en pointant les discontinuités frappantes dans la manière dont ils ont traité certaines questions-clés. L’article présente ensuite une critique de la thèse de la monopolisation étatique, avant de dégager les priorités des recherches à venir. Ces orientations nouvelles devraient conduire à une vision plus sophistiquée de la gouvernance de la criminalité dans l’Angleterre moderne, et amener l’histoire pénale du XIXe siècle à étudier l’expérience vécue des gens ordinaires.)

Media Contact Areas

History of crime, policing and security in Britain.

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