In recent years, such episodes as the death of Blair Peach, the Miners' Strike, the Scarman Report, and the Ponting and Stalker affairs have raised serious doubts whether the 'British way' of maintaining law and order by consensus is still feasible. Beginning with the Swing, Chartist, and Plug Riots, Charles Townshend shows how the definition of public order was steadily tightened during the Victorian era and how that process has continued throughout this century, thanks to such legislation as the Official Secrets, Public Order, and Emergency Powers Acts.
This is a wide-ranging and readable historical analysis of the fundamental concepts on which the law-and-order debate rests. As well as exploring the issues and events that have influenced mainland affairs, Professor Townshend also examines the Irish situation between the nineteenth-century Land War and the Prevention of Terrorism Act. He questions whether the periodic 'crises of order' that seem to be threatening modern Britain have eroded the flexibility of the unwritten constitution.
`tour de force... Astringent and quizzical ... an argument which is elegant, forceful, and distinctly uncomfortable.
Roy Foster, Times Literary Supplement
`valuable study ... illuminating analysis ... a vivid account ... raises questions at the heart of current debate about national decline.
Times Higher Education Supplement
`fascinating and important book ... masterly account
Bernard Crick, New Statesman and Society
`valuable study of the construction and deconstruction of "the English image of order", before "the French Revolutionary wars ... Essentially this book is an illuminating analysis of the shift between two conservative establishment conceptions of order. Townshend's book is a vivid account of all this, and raises questions at the heart of current debate about national decline.
Times Higher Education Supplement
`His book is all the more disturbing for being a detailed chronicle rather than a polemic ... he draws on a mass of sources to describe the growing confusion in Britain about the proper limits to government power and the role of the police.
Marek Kohn, The Independent on Sunday
`This is an erudite and engaging account of the 'English way' of thinking about and maintaining public order. This is an important account ... Anyone concerned with the political futures of this culture (on which-ever side of the Irish Sea) could do far worse than heed its lessons.
Ian Loader, Fortnight, July 1994
`This is an important and a deeply disturbing book ... The book may ... be read as a tract for the times, a plea for a written constitution and a new Bill of Rights. It is also a book which should be read by everyone with an interest in contemporary history and in the development of the concept of the state in Britain.
Times Literary Supplement
`This is an important book dealing with a vital subject. The argument is subtly developed and is all the more compelling for its sophistication. Townshend's range of intellectual sources is as impressive as the precision of his focus and the elegant lucidity of his prose. A fine book.
`important, concise and well written book ... this is a most interesting and stimulating survey of a controversial subject
Richard C. Thurlow, University of Sheffield, Intelligence and National Security
`This is an erudite and engaging account of the 'English way' of thinking about and maintaining public order. This is an important account of how the 'official mind' in an old and conservative political culture has viewed and responded to the threat of public disorder. Anyone concerned with the political features of this culture (on whichever side of the Irish Sea) could do far worse than heed its lessons.
Ian Loader, Fortnight 330
`an interesting and well-written account of the roots of a crisis in relations between the police, the government, and the public. Its application of social theory to the history of English policing is illuminating.'
`a scholarly, often witty and occasionally cynical account of the British myth of concensus... a powerful and convincing examination of the mystery of public order in Britain over the past century.'
`a wide-ranging analysis of developments in the so-called 'British way' of maintaining law and order ... it is well written'
Peter Bartrip, Nene College, Northampton, EHR June '96