Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Law

Policing and Crime Control in the Victorian City


This project revisits long-term developments in modern policing and crime control through a case-study of the Victorian city. It aims to critique existing studies, which argue that the task of responding to crime was transferred from civil society to the state in the nineteenth century, following the formation of professional police forces and the modern criminal justice system. Instead, it argues that the civilian public retained an important role in this field throughout the nineteenth century, and traces the historical development of crime control strategies (including private policing, and the ‘responsibilisation’ of the public) often taken as distinctive of the governance of crime in the present day.

Empirical research focuses on the police and local government archives, and local newspapers, of three major provincial cities (Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester) between 1815 and 1900. This work combines qualitative and quantitative methods to analyse the organisation and practice of ‘official’ policing, alongside ‘unofficial’, civilian practices of crime prevention, detection, apprehension and resolution. In these ways it sheds new light on the formation of crime control strategies in the modern era, and reassesses the social role and impact of professional police forces.

Project Publications

David Churchill, ‘Local Initiative, Central Oversight, Provincial Perspective: Governing Police Forces in Nineteenth-Century Leeds’, Historical Research, forthcoming, 2015 (current available in Early View: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1468-2281.12090/abstract).

David Churchill, ‘“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, pp.248-266.

David C. Churchill, ‘Rethinking the State Monopolisation Thesis: The Historiography of Policing and Criminal Justice in Nineteenth-Century England’, Crime, Histoire et Sociétés/Crime, History and Societies 18 (1), 2014, pp.131-152.

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