Dodsworth, Francis M.
'Civic' police and the condition of liberty: the rationality of governance in Eighteenth-Century England.
Social History, 29(2) pp. 199–216.
In this article it is argued that previous attempts to understand the organization of eighteenthcentury systems of police have failed to take into account the political implications of governmental organization. Examining the office of constable in terms of the contemporary governmental imagination reveals that concerns with the independence of the officers and the need to ward against 'corruption' are not simply practical requirements. The unpaid, sequential nature of eighteenth-century police service was defined in terms of the classical model of civic duty, which saw active participation in government and the rotation of public office as key conditions of the free state, and as such the liberty of the citizens. This vision of freedom as a condition of freedom from dependence or domination, not an absence of interference, was instrumental in defining the way the system of police was debated and reformed over the course of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Given that 'police' in this period represents a much wider programme of administration than the simple control of law and order, this has implications for our understanding of the structure of eighteenth-century government in general.
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