In some senses old English society with its small-scale, finite communities can be said to have been self-policing, so that the supposed bumbling inefficiencies of Shakespeare’s Dogberry, Verges, Elbow and Dull, which later generations made fun of, did not in fact jeopardize the security of society. They were, however, all too easily made to be the stereotypes of the old order by the reformers of the 1820s, anxious to secure a better disciplined and more highly trained force to fulfil their purposes in the new uncertain world of town and machine that was coming into being. Whereas informal disciplines had worked well enough in the static world of finite rural communities, the scale and rootlessness of the new towns made different demands and needed a more formal response. A clergyman giving evidence to the Select Committee on Criminal and Destitute Juveniles in 1852 commented on the detrimental effect of the growth of one-class districts in large conurbations, for it brought to an end “that species of silent but very efficient control over their neighbours” exercised by persons of a superior class: “In small towns there must be a sort of natural police operating upon the conduct of each individual who lives under the public eye; but in a large town he lives if he chooses in absolute obscurity.”
KeywordsPolice Force Local Force Select Committee Police Presence Municipal Corporation
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