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Policing Past and Present: Contemporary Crime Control in Historical Perspective

April 18, 2018, 5:00pm BST - 7:00pm
School of Law, University of Leeds

Moot Court Room
Liberty Building, Moorland Road
Leeds LS2 9JT
United Kingdom

Topic areas


The development of modern policing is usually understood in terms of a shift in responsibility for crime control from ordinary people to the state. In particular, the formation of ‘new’, professional police forces in the nineteenth century is widely seen as central to the state’s monopolisation of crime control.

This symposium will highlight new research on the history of policing which casts doubt upon this orthodox view. Rather than quickly assuming responsibility for crime control, new research suggests that the new police struggled to combat crime effectively, creating an enforcement gap between public expectations and actual experience. This encouraged ordinary people to continue to play a vital role in dealing with crime as part of their everyday lives, from locking doors and windows to chasing down suspects, from tracing stolen property to negotiating private settlements with criminals. This suggests that the modern crime control might be characterised more by the persistence of a mixed economy of policing than by the growth of state control. 

This historical research also raises questions concerning policing today. The ‘pluralisation’ of policing beyond the state is widely considered characteristic and distinctive of contemporary crime control. Yet if the nineteenth century too was marked by a mixed economy of policing, how might that change the way we think about contemporary policing? Hence, this symposium will reflect on the connections between policing past and present, and more broadly on the value of historical research to criminology and police studies.

About the Speaker

David Churchill is Lecturer in Criminal Justice at the Centre for Criminal Justice Studies, School of Law, University of Leeds. He completed his PhD at The Open University and was Economic History Society Anniversary Research Fellow at the Institute of Historical Research. His research concerns policing, security and crime control in modern Britain, and the uses of historical research in criminology and criminal justice studies. He has been awarded the Radzinowicz Prize and British Society of Criminology Policing Network Early Career Prize. His first book – Crime Control and Everyday Life in the Victorian City: The Police and the Public – was recently published by Oxford University Press:

About the Discussants

Dr. Anja Johansen

Anja Johansen is Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Dundee. Her research is focused on the relationship between police and the public in France, Germany and Britain during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Her current research project – ‘Quarrelsome Citizens: Emerging Police complaints Cultures in London, Paris and Berlin, 1880-1914” – compares the ways in which individual citizens challenged police violence and malpractice. She is also interested in the development of civil liberties activism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and how individual citizens sought to challenge public authorities – including the police and the judiciary. Previously, she was editor of the journal Crime, History & Societies/ Crime, histoire & sociétés(, which brings together research on the history of crime and criminal justice history from scholars from around the world.

Professor Tim Newburn

Tim Newburn is Professor of Criminology and Social Policy at the LSE. His research has spanned a number of areas including policing, restorative justice, youth justice, drugs and alcohol, comparative policy making and urban violence. He is the author of over 40 books, including: The Future of Policing (with Morgan, Oxford University Press, 1997); Private Security and Public Policing (with Jones, Clarendon Press, 1998); Policy Transfer and Criminal Justice (with Jones, Open University Press, 2007); and the bestselling textbook, Criminology (3rd edition, Routledge, 2017). He is General Editor of Routledge’s Key Ideas in Criminologyseries, and a series editor of Key Thinkers in Criminology. He was elected to the Academy of Learned Societies in the Social Sciences in 2005, and was President of the British Society of Criminology from 2005 to 2008. With Professors David Downes and Paul Rock, he is currently working on an Official History of Criminal Justice.

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April 18, 2018, 4:00pm BST

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