Academic journal article The Historian

Invisible Men: The Secret Lives of Police Constables in Liverpool, Manchester, and Birmingham, 1900-1939

Academic journal article The Historian

Invisible Men: The Secret Lives of Police Constables in Liverpool, Manchester, and Birmingham, 1900-1939

Article excerpt

Invisible Men: The Secret Lives of Police Constables in Liverpool, Manchester, and Birmingham, 1900-1939. By Joanne Klein. (Liverpool, England: Liverpool University Press, 2010. Pp. viii, 334. $34.95.)

This work is an important contribution to an underresearched period in the history of English policing and to the history of working-class culture in general and is built on previously neglected resources from police archives in England's three principal provincial cities. The book is well structured, allowing the reader to follow the careers of the constables from entry to the force, through the experience of learning the ropes; their experience of discipline; the camaraderie, conflict, and cooperation that created a body of working men aware of their common interest; their relations to the public; their domestic lives; and ultimately to their final career trajectories. Aspects of this story are well known, such as the process of unionization and the formation of the Police Federation between the 1890s and 1919, but even these elements are illuminated with new detail on the factionalism, favoritism, and unevenness of experience within and between police forces and the limited effect the Federation had in some forces (110-166).

Joanne Klein also has important things to say about generational change within the organization, with the Police Acts of 1890 and 1919 transforming policing from a casual working-class job into a skilled occupation with an educated and disciplined workforce but at the same time erecting barriers between different generations of policemen with different abilities and approaches (8-9, 114-121).

Nonetheless, despite the improvement in the quality of constables, it is central to Klein's argument that police forces remained resolutely working class in character, with all police officers up to chief superintendent, and even some chief constables, beginning their careers as officers on the beat (4-5, Appendix). …

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