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The Identification of Criminal Suspects by Policing Agents in London, 1780-1850

Bland, Eleanor (2019) The Identification of Criminal Suspects by Policing Agents in London, 1780-1850. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

This thesis examines policing practices, and the impact of these practices on patterns of arrest and prosecution, in London between 1780 and 1850. Scholars have long recognised that the received historical record of crime is a reflection of prosecutions, rather than of criminal activity itself, which is very difficult to quantify in the past. However, this research suggests that it is also partially a record of policing. The thesis examines in particular the idea of ‘proactive policing’: the occasions on which policing agents exercised discretion to arrest defendants on suspicion that they had recently, or were about to, commit an offence. Using court records, including the Old Bailey Proceedings, and police or magistrates’ court reports in newspapers, this thesis examines the reasons that policing agents gave for their arrests, and it also considers the characteristics of those arrested. This evidence suggests that individual police officers made active choices using their discretion, and their actions shaped patterns of arrests and prosecutions. By examining the period between 1780 and 1850, this thesis highlights continuities and changes in policing practices before and after the establishment of the Metropolitan Police force in 1829. It examines the expectations placed on the wide variety of different officials responsible for law enforcement on the streets of London. This was an era of concern over policing provision, debate over criminal justice administration and fears of growing criminality. It is the contention of this thesis that policing practices, and proactive policing agents themselves, contributed to the prevalence of criminal stereotypes. These criminal stereotypes were closely related to the emerging fears that there was a ‘criminal class’, believed to be responsible for the majority of criminal activity. The policing highlighted by this research affected both the received record of criminal activity, and perceptions of criminality.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > History (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Ms Eleanor Bland
Date Deposited: 21 Jan 2019 09:22
Last Modified: 21 Jan 2019 09:22
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/22628

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