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abstract

  • Historical studies about aspects of urban life seldom recount the past with detachment from the concerns of the present. Some areas of inquiry about the past shield themselves from contemporary relevance, thereby risking a slide into antiquarianism. At the other extreme, historical scholarship that is too keenly aware of the present risks looking foolish after the fad or concern which inspired or guided it has come and gone. This dilemma of whether or not to associate current and past events cannot be a real one for the history of policing; it would be difficult to imagine historical accounts of criminal justice within urban areas that could be detached from the present. There also are misconceptions in criminology concerning the historical functions of policing. There is an even more compelling reason for allowing contemporary concerns to edge into the history of policing. Police administrators in many large Canadian urban centres have initiated educational programmes, hired university graduates, and generally recognized the value of education. Police forces and the new types of constables and officers require well-researched and critically balanced studies that are pertinent to these initiatives. And historians like those who have contributed to this issue of UHR/RHU are able to provide such a service; they have ideas that take policing history far beyond the undigested tidbits and lists filling spaces between the photographs in commemorative and souvenir histories of urban forces.

publication date

  • January 1990