The Great British Bobby
The Great British Bobby, A history of British policing from 1829 to the present, has just been published by Professor Clive Emsley, co-director of the International Centre for Comparative Criminological Research at The Open University and president of the International Association for the History of Crime and Criminal Justice.
In his book, Clive explains that the name ‘Bobby’ comes from Sir Robert Peel who, as home secretary, oversaw the creation of the Metropolitan Police in 1829. He served on the front line of what is often characterised as ‘the war against crime.’ He may rarely have fought in pitched battles and almost never with lethal weapons, but his life could be hard and dangerous. Up until the last third of the twentieth century he usually patrolled on foot, in all weathers by day and, more often, by night. The drudgery of the foot patrol fostered that other nickname, ‘Mr Plod’; something that may, or may not, have passed Enid Blyton by when she chose the name for the policeman of Noddy’s Toytown.
The period covered by The Great British Bobby saw massive economic, social and political change in Britain. The policing institution has shifted significantly in tandem, from having its primary relationship directly with the decentralised, local community, to becoming an instrument of the central state with, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, targets set and regulated centrally for the good of what politicians and policing professionals consider as the national community.
Professor Emsley said: “Histories of the police have always tended to be institutional and have tended to focus on law makers and chief constables. I wanted to explore the lives of the men and women on the beat at the sharp end. The aim of the book is to weave the stories of ordinary police officers into the social history of Britain over the last 250 years.”
The International Centre for Comparative Criminological Research has just published material from the Metropolitan Police archives. It is available as study courses aimed at students of social history working towards Key Stage 3 and higher. The two courses, Police in wartime and citizenship and Metropolitan Police have been made available through funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the AHRC Knowledge Transfer project. Please see the link (right) for further information.