Did methods of crime prevention change in the period
We are used to living in a time of change;
new technology and new ideas re-make the world we live in every few years.
But history has not always been like this. Sometimes things remained the
same for decades, even centuries. So it was with crime prevention in this
No new jobs were created. The main local officials
responsible for crime prevention -Justices of the Peace and petty constables
- had been set up in the Middle Ages.
Why should they change? Monarchs found JPs useful and gave them more work
to do: one 16th century JP complained of "stacks of statutes".
JPs had the great advantage, to the government, of being unpaid. For their
part, they liked the power and the prestige of running their locality.
Petty constables were also unpaid, chosen from the people in a community
to do the job for a year. This legal system matched the social system:
JPs were more important, petty constables were among the more established
This is not to say that England did not change in these centuries. The
population tripled, but it was still a country of small towns and vilages,
as it was in medieval times. The 15th century baronial wars known as the
Wars of the Roses, and the 17th century Civil War, meant that the country
was highly suspicious of soldiers and loathed the idea of a special force
of lawmen. This left a large part of crime prevention up to the individual.
If you were robbed, you had to find out who did it and take the person
to court yourself.
One effect of this lack of change is that there are
fewer exhibits to put in this Section of the Gallery.
There is only one Case-Study:
Constables and Watchmen