Making the Peace: Public Order and Public Security in Modern Britain

Making the Peace: Public Order and Public Security in Modern Britain

Making the Peace: Public Order and Public Security in Modern Britain

Making the Peace: Public Order and Public Security in Modern Britain


In recent years, such episodes as the death of Blair Peach, the Miners' Strike, the Scarman Report, and the Ponting and Stalker affairs have raised serious doubts as to whether the "British trick" of maintaining law and order by consensus is still feasible. Beginning with the Swing, Chartist, and Plug Riots, Charles Townshend shows how public order was steadily tightened during the Victorian era and how that process has continued throughout this century, thanks to such legislation as the Official Secrets, Public Order, Defence of the Realm, and Emergency Powers Acts. This is a wide-ranging and readable historical analysis of the fundamental concepts on which the law-and-order debate rests. In addition to exploring the issues and events that have influenced mainland affairs, Townshend also examines the Irish situation between the First Land Act and the Prevention of Terrorism Act, and offers valuable insights into the periodic "crises of order" that seems to be threatening modern Britain.


This is a study in British public culture, and like many books about Britain it is mainly about England. the more comprehensive name is used in the title and (sometimes) in the text because it is technically correct, and because it is particularly associated with the polyethnic 'civic culture' of the modern state, notionally pluralist and multicultural. But the vernacular, and even the scholarly slippage between the two is constant. Where this is not due to simple carelessness, it arises from an exploitation of the power of ambiguity which is a characteristic of this culture. English nationality has, at last, begun to be subjected to sustained enquiry-triggered, ironically, by the distinctly careless attempts on the part of Mrs Thatcher's governments to invoke it. For about a century before this, however, after the time of assertive books such as J. R. Seeley The Expansion of England or T. H. S. Escott England: Its People, Polity and Pursuits, it was habitually camouflaged, an operation often carried out with baldfaced deception, as in Enoch Powell and Angus Maude Biography of a Nation: a Short History of Britain. As yet, there is no survey of this process; but a good start is made in 'The English Presumption', in J. H. Grainger's Patriotisms: Britain, 1900-1939.

This book would not have been completed without the generosity of many people and institutions, outstanding amongst these the National Humanities Center, North Carolina, in particular its exceptionally capable library staff; the Leverhulme Trust, which honoured me with a fellowship; and the Woodrow Wilson Center, Washington dc. the History Department at Keele University suffered much annoyance from these interruptions to my ordinary career. Ann Seaton gave unstinting assistance in transferring a half-finished book from one wordprocessing programme to another; Nancy Ward performed prodigious feats in the final assembly of text, notes, and bibliography.

C. T.

Woodrow Wilson Center Washington dc July 1992 . . .

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