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British Police & the Democratic Idea since 1829 - HIS00032I

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Mark Roodhouse
  • Credit value: 30 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2018-19
    • See module specification for other years: 2020-21

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2018-19 to Summer Term 2018-19

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To provide students with the opportunity to study particular historical topics in depth;
  • To develop students’ ability to examine a topic from a range of perspectives and to strengthen their ability to work critically and reflectively with secondary and primary material; and
  • To combine seminar preparation and discussion of the topic being studied with extended independent work on a project devised by the student.

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will: 

  • have acquired a deep knowledge of the specific topic studied
  • have developed their ability to use and synthesise a range of primary and secondary sources
  • be able to evaluate the arguments that historians have made about the topic studied
  • have developed their ability to study independently through seminar-based teaching
  • gain experience of working collaboratively through an assessed group project 

Module content

The ‘Bobby on the beat’ is a national icon for the British. The uniformed but unarmed British police who patrol a neighbourhood on behalf of their local community have long been regarded by Britons as the best police in the world. This ‘British model’ of policing stands in stark contrast to a ‘colonial’ or ‘Irish model’ of policing applied elsewhere in the British Empire. This course will ask how far these characterizations fit the theory and practice of policing in the British world. Starting with the immediate predecessors of the London Metropolitan Police at the turn of the eighteenth century, we will look at the formation and operation of the New Police and their counterparts in the early nineteenth century before charting and comparing the evolution of policing systems in Britain and elsewhere during the late nineteenth century and into the twentieth century.

Teaching Programme:
This 30-credit module is taught through a weekly two-hour seminar run from weeks 2-10 in the spring term and a four week period of project work undertaken in weeks 1-4 of the summer term. Students will complete their group project work within that period and tutors should arrange to be available for consultation with students twice during that time. There will be no formal seminar teaching during this period.

The seminar programme will likely deal with the following:

  1. Constable Dogberry – the ‘old’ police
  2. The ‘Peelers’ – creating the ‘New Police’
  3. ‘A plague of blue locusts’ – police and people in the C19
  4. John Bull’s other island – inventing colonial policing
  5. Plain clothes – detective policing
  6. Political policing – Special Branch and the Security Service
  7. ‘An indulgent tradition’ – police and people in the C20
  8. The death of PC 49, or the beat goes on
  9. Policing and decolonisation

Students will complete a group research project that examines the theory and practice of community-based policing in the British world. Students are encouraged to use Paperpile, a free, easy-to-use research tool, to collect, organize, cite and share their research resources, and expected to use online databases, such as Old Bailey Online, and printed sources identified by the tutor as well as secondary reading.


Task Length % of module mark
Open Examination (2 day paper over 3 days)
British Police & the Democratic Idea since 1829
8 hours 67
University - project
N/A 33

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Formative assessment will be a group presentation between weeks 5 and 7 of the spring term.

For summative assessment students take a 24-hour open exam in the summer term assessment period, usually released at 11:00 on day 1 and submitted at 11:00 on day 2. For those taking two Explorations modules the 24-hour open exams are held on consecutive days, with both papers released at 11:00 on day 1 and both due for submission on 11:00 of day 3.

Students also submit a piece of written work for their group project of no more than 3,000 words in week 5 of the summer term.

The exam carries 67% of assessment and the project element 33% for this module.

Students who need to be reassessed in the project component of this module (for example due to Exceptional Circumstance) will be required to submit in the summer reassessment period a shorter individual project (2,000 words) which should include a short reflection (500 words max) on group work, considering how this project could be expanded if a team of three to four people were working on it. Students should consider how they would divide up the research tasks, and reflect briefly on problems which might arise and how they would manage them. Module tutors will advise on the content and design of this project. 


Task Length % of module mark
Open Examination (2 day paper over 3 days)
British Police & the Democratic Idea since 1829
8 hours 67
University - project
N/A 33

Module feedback

Following their formative assessment task, students will typically receive written feedback that will include comments and a mark within 10 working days of submission.

Work will be returned to students in their seminars and may be supplemented by the tutor giving some oral feedback to the whole group. All students are encouraged, if they wish, to discuss the feedback on their procedural work during their tutor’s student hours. For more information, see the Statement on Feedback.

For the summative assessment task, students will receive their provisional mark and written feedback within 20 working days of the submission deadline unless submitted in week 5 of the summer term, in which case these are available within 25 working days. The tutor will then be available during student hours for follow-up guidance if required. For more information, see the Statement of Assessment.    

Indicative reading

For term time reading, please refer to the module VLE site. Before the course starts, we encourage you to look at the following items of preliminary reading:

Anderson, David, and David Killingray, eds. Policing the Empire: Government, Authority and Control, 1830–1940. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1991.

Emsley, Clive. The Great British Bobby: A History of Policing from 1829 to the Present. London: Quercus, 2009.

Sinclair, Georgina, and Chris A. Williams. “‘Home and Away’: The Cross-Fertilisation between “Colonial” and “British” Policing, 1921-85.” Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 35, no. 2 (2007): 221-38.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): changes to courses

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