Policing Western Europe: Politics, Professionalism, and Public Order, 1850-1940

By Clive Emsley; Barbara Weinberger | Go to book overview

confronted with a disorder with the serious potential of the Parisian events of February 1934. What cannot be accounted for in any precise way is the extent to which demonstrators in Paris escalated the violence by arming themselves simply because they knew that the police were armed, and the extent to which, in England, beliefs inculcated about the moderate, non-violent nature of English society and the "perfect command of temper" of the Bobby served to restrain trouble on both sides. Nor is it possible to prove demonstrably that one police system was in any sense superior to, or more efficient than, the other. The police of England and France were in many, perhaps in most, respects similar rather than different. It is one of the policeman's attributes that he is the only state official with authority to use coercive force in his day-to-day dealings with citizens. Public disorder sees the most overt employment of this coercive force. In England, police historians, as well as central and local politicians and senior police officers, have been reluctant to acknowledge this authority. In contrast, in France where, during the two hundred years since the Revolution, violent political upheaval has been much more common, the French policeman's role in defending the regime of the time has made recognition of his coercive powers inescapable. Historians of both the police and the labour movement in England have also generally ignored the policeman as an individual and a worker, and this too may have tended to distort the historical analyses of the police role in disorder; from their different angles of vision, both kinds of historian have seen the policeman as an impersonal and unfeeling agent.


Notes
1.
My thanks to the Economic and Social Research Council for an award which assisted in the research for this paper.
2.
[ Journal Official], 1923, Débats Parl[émentaire]s (Chambre), 4097.
3.
Bull's Eye 5, 1 Oct. 1920, 7.
5.
Hansard 219 ( 1928), 2264; Hansard 278 ( 1933), 958.
6.
1920 Cmd 574 xxii, 543.
7.
Hansard 319 ( 1937), 181.

-179-

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