The Origins and Impact of the New Police

  • David Taylor
Part of the Social History in Perspective book series (SHP)


The new police were a central element in the evolving criminal justice system. After many debates spread over much of the previous century, there was a flurry of legislation in the second quarter of the nineteenth century which established the framework within which they would develop. Peel’s Metropolitan Police Act of 1829 had been followed by the 1835 Municipal Corporations Act, which required the establishment of a police force under the control of a watch committee, the 1839 Rural Constabulary Act and, finally, the 1856 County and Borough Police Act, which required the creation of police forces in all counties and boroughs and established an inspectorate to ensure efficiency. This bald summary of legislative change, which itself simplifies a more complex process of development, obscures a fierce debate that has surrounded the advent and impact of the so-called ‘new police’.1 There are three major issues to be considered. The first centres on the novelty of the new police, the second on the arguments about policing that shaped the legislative changes, and the third on the role of the new police and their impact upon early Victorian society.


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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    D. Taylor, The new police in the nineteenth century: crime, conflict and control, Manchester University Press, 1997.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Captain W. L. Melville Lee, A History of Police in England, London, Methuen, 1901, p. 241.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    T. A. Critchley, A History of Police in England and Wales, London, Constable, 1967. See also the earlier and highly influential writings of C. Reith: The Police Idea, Oxford University Press, 1938; The British Police and the Democratic Ideal, Oxford University Press, 1943; A Short History of the Police, Oxford University Press, 1948; A New Study of Police History, London, Oliver & Boyd, 1956.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    J. Styles, ‘The Emergence of the Police – Explaining Police Reform in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century England’, British Journal of Criminology, vol. 27, 1987.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    For recent syntheses, see R. Reiner, The Politics of the Police, 2nd edn, Hemel Hempstead, Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1992; C. Emsley, The English Police: a political and social history, Hemel Hempstead, Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1991; D. Taylor, The New Police. On the diversity of local experience, see especially C. Steedman, Policing the Victorian Community: the Formation of the English Provincial Policefrom 1856to 1880, London, Routledge, 1984; R. Swift, Police Reform in Early Victorian York, 1838–1856, University of York, Borthwick Papers, vol. 73, 1988; R. Swift, ‘Urban Policing in Early Victorian England, 1835–1856: a reappraisal’, History, vol. 73, 1988; Taylor, New Police.Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    Cited in D. Philips, ‘A new engine of power and authority: the institutionalization of law enforcement in England, 1780–1830’, in V. A. C. Gatrell, B. Lenman and G. Parker (eds), Crime and the Law: A Social History of Crime in Western Europe since 1500, London, Europa, 1980, p. 183.Google Scholar
  7. 10.
    R. D. Storch, ‘Policing Rural Southern England before the Police: opinions and practice, 1830–1856’, in D. Hay and F. Snyder (eds), Policing and Prosecution in Britain, 1750–1850, Oxford University Press, 1989; M. Scollan, Sworn to Serve: Police in Essex, Chichester, Phillimore, 1993; B. J. Davey, Lawless and Immoral: policing a county town, 1838–1857, Leicester University Press, 1983.Google Scholar
  8. 11.
    See the discussion in D. Eastwood, Government and Community in the English Provinces, 1700–1870, Basingstoke, Macmillan, 1997, pp. 139–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 14.
    S. H. Palmer, Police and Protest in England and Ireland, 1780–1850, Cambridge University Press, 1988, pp. 510 & 514; R. Swift, Police Reform.Google Scholar
  10. 23.
    H. Hopkins, The Long Affray: the poaching wars in Britain, London, Macmillan, 1986; D. J. Elliot, Policing Shropshire, 1836–1967, Studley, Brewin Books, 1984, pp. 26–7.Google Scholar
  11. 24.
    D. Philips, ‘Riots and Public Order in the Black Country, 1835–60’, in J. Stevenson and R. Quinault (eds), Popular Protest and Public Order, London, Allen & Unwin, 1974; J. K. Walton and R. Poole, ‘The Lancashire Wakes in the Nineteenth Century’, in R. D. Storch (ed.), Popular Culture and Custom in Nineteenth Century England, London, Croom Helm, 1980; R. Malcolmson, Popular Recreation in English Society, 1750–1850, Cambridge University Press, 1981; B. Weinberger, ‘The police and the public in mid-nineteenth century Warwickshire’, in V. Bailey (ed.), Policing and Punishment in the Nineteenth Century, London, Croom Helm, 1981.Google Scholar
  12. 25.
    C. T. Clarkson and J. H. Richardson, Police!, London, Leadenhall Press, 1888, p. 149.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© David Taylor 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Taylor
    • 1
  1. 1.University of HuddersfieldUK

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