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Dr David Churchill's Publications


  • Churchill D, Crime Control and Everyday Life in the Victorian City: The Police and the Public (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017)

    Author URL []

    This book provides the first detailed study of policing and civilian crime control in nineteenth-century England. It provides a sustained, empirically-rich critique of existing accounts, which present the modern history of crime control as process whereby the state wrested governmental power from the civilian public. According to the orthodox interpretation, the formation of new, ‘professional’ police forces in the nineteenth century is integral to the decline of an early modern, participatory, discretionary culture of self-policing, and its replacement by a modern, centralized, bureaucratic system of crime control. This book critically challenges the established view, and presents a fundamental reinterpretation of changes to crime control in the age of the new police. It breaks new ground by providing a highly detailed, empirical analysis of informal, civilian crime control – which reveals the tremendous activity which ordinary people displayed in responding to crime – alongside a rich survey of formal policing and criminal justice. With unique conceptual clarity, it seeks to reorient modern criminal justice history away from its established preoccupation with state systems of policing and punishment, and move towards a more nuanced analysis of the governance of crime. More widely, the book provides a unique and valuable vantage point from which to rethink the role of civil society and the state in modern governance, the nature of agency and authority in Victorian England, and the historical antecedents of the pluralized modes of crime control which characterize contemporary society.

Journal articles

  • Churchill D, Crawford A, Barker A, ‘Thinking forward through the past: Prospecting for urban order in (Victorian) public parks’, Theoretical Criminology 2017 (Accepted)
    DOI: 10.1177/1362480617713986, Repository URL:

    © 2017, The Author(s) 2017. Supplementing familiar linear and chronological accounts of history, we delineate a novel approach that explores connections between past, present and future. Drawing on Koselleck, we outline a framework for analysing the interconnected categories of ‘spaces of experience’ and ‘horizons of expectation’ across times. We consider the visions and anxieties of futures past and futures present; how these are constituted by, and inform, experiences that have happened and are yet to come. This conceptual frame is developed through the study of the heritage and lived experiences of a specific Victorian park within an English city. We analyse the formation of urban order as a lens to interrogate both the immediate and long-term linkages between past, present and possible futures. This approach enables us to ground analysis of prospects for urban relations in historical perspective and to pose fundamental questions about the social role of urban parks.

  • 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:

    © 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, ‘Local initiative, central oversight, provincial perspective: governing police forces in nineteenth-century Leeds’, Historical Research, 88.241 (2015), 458-481
    DOI: 10.1111/1468-2281.12090, Repository URL:

    This article examines police administration as a branch of urban government, based on a case study of Leeds between 1815 and 1900. Making extensive use of local government and police records, it takes a longer-term view of ‘reform’ than most existing studies, and privileges the more routine aspects of everyday governance. It thus provides an original exploration of central-local government relations, as well as conflict and negotiation between distinct bodies of self-government within the locality. Previous studies have rightly emphasized that urban police governance was primarily a local responsibility, yet this article also stresses the influence of central state oversight and an extra-local, provincial perspective, both of which modified the grip of localism on nineteenth-century government.

  • 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:

  • 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:

    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, ‘Living in a leisure town: residential reactions to the growth of popular tourism in Southend, 1870-1890’, Urban History, 41.1 (2014), 42-61
    DOI: 10.1017/S0963926812000740, Repository URL:

    While historical interest in the seaside has grown appreciably in recent times, much of the literature remains preoccupied with issues specific to resort towns. This article examines the social dynamics of the seaside town more broadly, through a study of Southend residents in the 1870s and 1880s. It analyses their discussions of working-class tourists and the industries which catered for them, before examining attempts to regulate the use of public space in the town. This is a study of rapid urbanization in a small town, and how social perceptions and relations were reconfigured in this context

  • 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:

    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.)


  • Churchill D, ‘The Security Industry’, in A Companion to The History of Crime and Criminal Justice, ed. by Turner J and others (Bristol: Policy Press, 2017), 228-230
    Repository URL:

  • Churchill D, King P, ‘Left to the Mercy of the Mob'. Ducking, Popular Justice, and the Magistrates in Britain (1750-1890)’, in Popular Justice in Europe (18th-19th Centuries), ed. by Delivré É and Berger E (Bologna/Berlin: Il Mulino/Duncker & Humblot, 2014), 135-168


  • Barker ACH, Churchill D, Crawford A, Leeds Park Survey: Full Report, (Leeds: University of Leeds, 2018)
    DOI: 10.5518/100/4, Repository URL:

    For many people, visiting parks is an integral part of everyday life, reflecting the vital role parks play within the social fabric of cities. Parks are places where history is made, both in terms of major public events - political rallies, mass meetings, demonstrations and civic celebrations — and in terms of people’s intimate lives; their romances, friendships, family outings and personal commemorations. In 2016, a team of researchers at the University of Leeds undertook a public survey in partnership with Leeds City Council (LCC) Parks & Countryside Service as part of a broader Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded project investigating how Leeds parks have changed through time, how they are used today, and what their future prospects might be. The purpose of this report is to present the main findings and data tables produced from this survey. The research highlights the importance of accessible, good quality parks and green spaces throughout the city; where people of all ages, cultures and abilities can enjoy the vital leisure, health and well-being benefits that parks afford. Based on our study and survey findings, we make 16 recommendations for developing parks policy and practice in Leeds and similar cities in line with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 11.7 which requires that all nation states will ‘By 2030, provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities’.

  • Barker A, Booth N, Churchill D, Crawford A, The Future Prospects of Urban Public Parks: Findings - Informing Change, in The Future Prospects of Urban Public Parks: Findings - Informing Change, (Leeds, UK: University of Leeds, 2017)
    DOI: 10.5518/100/3, Repository URL:

    Public parks are long-standing and familiar features of the urban environment. For many people, visiting parks is an integral part of everyday life in the contemporary city. Yet parks in the UK are at a possible ‘tipping point’, prompting important concerns about their sustainability. Parks face essential challenges over funding and management, as well as questions of unequal access and competing demands on use. This study of public parks in the city of Leeds focused on how they have changed through time, how they are used today, and what their future prospects might be.

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