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Law and Order in London in the Late Nineteenth Century

March 29th, 2010 No comments

The biggest changes in London’s law and order set up took place in the nineteenth century, around the time of the Jack the Ripper murders. This essay is going to discuss the role of the police, how and why the police force changed, the reasons behind it, and what difference these changes made to society.

Law and order in Britain consisted of two police forces in 1800, the Bow Street Runners and the Thames River police force. The forces were under constant threat because of the rapidly growing population, and the lack of sufficient constables. In London in 1829 there were 450 constables and 4000 watchmen, compared to 1.5 million inhabitants of London. Watchmen and parish constables patrolled the streets of London, who kept an eye out for trouble, and prevented disturbances and robberies. They were probably quite effective, because they knew the local area and the local troublemakers well, but little is known about them. However, these officers could not deal with big disturbances, like riots. At this time, there were frequent Chartist uprisings in London, which the police were completely unable to control. The Industrial Revolution (1750-1850) also caused an increase in homicide, robbery, theft and burglary, which added to the demand for a more effective police force.
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