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  • A History of Police and Masculinities, 1700-2010 ed. by David G. Barrie and Susan Broomhall
  • Deborah Seiler
Barrie, David G. and Susan Broomhall, eds, A History of Police and Masculinities, 1700-2010, New York, Routledge, 2011; paperback; pp. 303; 4 b/w illustrations; R.R.P. £29.99; ISBN 9780415696616.

This edited collection on how masculine ideologies have shaped, and were shaped by, policing both culturally and institutionally, is a joy to read. Chronologically, the contributions range from the eighteenth to the twenty-first century, taking Britain, Europe, America, and Australia into consideration. When read cover to cover, the consistencies and differences in masculine ideologies within a policing framework clearly come across, though the coherency and cogency of the first few chapters is not sustained to the last three. While the volume works well as a whole, with each chapter clearly having similar theoretical priorities, the chapters also stand well alone. The footnotes and bibliography are comprehensive, making the collection ideal for both scholarly and student readers of both gender and criminal justice history.

The collection argues that conceptions of masculinity were, and are, central to how policing systems were created and maintained. If, as editors David Barrie and Susan Broomhall state in the Introduction, gender is made the central focal point when analysing policing history, the 'conceptualizations of "old" and "new" police models cannot be sustained' (p. 6). They note that there is strong evidence against criminological scholarship that makes the British Metropolitan model the defining feature of policing; instead, Barrie and Broomhall propose that systems evolved not only in relation to each other, but also in relation to indigenous social and gender norms. Given the central tenet that men were seen to be responsible for social order and coherence, this translated not only to how policing systems were created and maintained, but also to how the men within those systems behaved, and were perceived by the public. Thus, Australian, American, British, French, and Italian systems were all shaped not only with the awareness of each other but also within their own native societal and cultural contexts. Policing in Australia, for example, was informed by both its frontier status and its British history.

As the editors note, a consistent theme - both chronologically and geographically - for the men engaged in policing was the need for physical and emotional control. Concurrent research on men in governing positions in the early modern period has shown that control over one's body and emotions was seen as necessary for a man with responsibility over his social subordinates. While the volume's contributions demonstrate the importance of this control over mind and body within a policing framework, they also show the varied nature of how it was expressed among men. It differed [End Page 207] along lines of class (Broomhall and Barrie), race (Gerda W. Ray), and even geographical location (Dean Wilson).

A number of articles warrant special mention. In his contribution, Wilson, discussing masculinities in colonial Melbourne from 1853 until the early twentieth century, finds that physicality was essential for men - both as a representation of social civility and of colonial power. The restrictive nature of this type of masculinity is clear from his examples of how the policeman's body was regulated - through dress, free time, and even sleeping and meal times. David Garrioch shows how masculine ideals in the Paris police of the eighteenth century were formed through perceptions of the king. His research illustrates that perceptions of the king changed how the police then acted amongst themselves and towards the public - as the king was perceived in a less paternal light, so, too, did the men of the Parisian police force act in a less paternal manner.

Broomhall and Barrie's article is of note for its close and nuanced analysis of periodicals detailing court events in the early part of the nineteenth century in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Their research not only confirms that a sense of the paternal seemed to be an intrinsic aspect of men in positions of power, but they also note that the relationship with the public determined how they were viewed as men. That is, an officer dealing with gangs was seen...


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pp. 207-208
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