Through Revolution and War

  • Clive Emsley
Part of the Themes in Comparative History book series


The quarter of a century beginning in 1789 was, for France, a period of massive social upheaval and institutional change. Revolution and civil war tormented the country for a decade; war lasted for twenty-three years. Among the institutions to be changed were those concerned with policing. The old system, condemned as arbitary and corrupt, and feared for spying and prying into men’s lives, was swept away. Within ten years a new system was taking shape but, rather than conforming to the liberal sentiments of 1789, it sought to give the state even greater powers of surveillance. England experienced neither political nor social revolution, but the upheavals in France swept her into twenty-two years of war qualitatively and quantitatively different from its predecessors. There were fears of popular insurrection on the French model, aggravated by recurrent riots over food shortages and by widespread industrial disorders resulting partly from technological change and partly from the economic dislocation brought by the war. However, while in London particularly there were changes in policing, the belief that anything resembling a paid, professional police would be dangerous to liberty continued to predominate.


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© Clive Emsley 1983

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  • Clive Emsley

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