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Externally funded projects (from 2008)

Educating Criminals in Nineteenth-Century England (AHRC)

Rosalind Crone

The aim of this project was to uncover the scale, character and impact of prisoner education between 1823, the passing of the Gaol Act, in which the government first legislated for the instruction of prisoners, and 1896, when, following the famous Gladstone Committee on Prisons, a departmental committee was convened to inquire into the provision of education in British prisons. It explored educational programmes developed in local prisons, convict prisons and hulks using evidence from 'official' and 'ordinary' sources, much of which remained largely untouched in the archives. This evidence was used to address four broad questions: what were the aims of prisoner education in the nineteenth century; what methods were employed to instruct prisoners in the literate skills; how did the practice of reading and writing within the penal environment educate prisoners in the appropriate use of the skills; and how far could prisoners use the skills of reading and writing to reclaim their agency within the coercive penal environment?

Outputs included: A database of every penal institution - local prison, convict prison, prison hulk and lock up - that existed in 19th century England that was recoverable using a specific method. Critical details of each institution are given (operational dates, jurisdiction, location, population statistics) along with a list of all the surviving archives which could be found. See: www. A monograph under contract with Oxford University Press. Project website:

Exploring UK Policing Practices as a Blueprint for Democratic Police Reform: the overseas deployment of UK police officers, 1989-2009 (ESRC)

Clive Emsley and Georgina Sinclair

This ESRC project formed part of a broader consideration of UK international policing from 1945 to the present day.  It focused specifically upon the impact of UK policing policies and procedures in designing and implementing aspects of community policing within peace support operations since 1989, and conducted oral histories with police officers who have been involved in missions in Bosnia, Kosovo, Georgia, Iraq and Afghanistan. The project set up stakeholder workshops in 2011 to enable dialogue between academics and practitioners on issues that are central to international policing today.

Outputs included: Sinclair, Georgina (2012). Exporting the UK Police ‘Brand’: The RUC-PSNI and the International Policing Agenda. Policing: a journal of policy and practice, 6(1) pp. 55–66.

Crime and the British Military in the Twentieth Century (Leverhulme)

Clive Emsley

For many years historians of crime have suggested the potential link between war and crime - with a decrease of offending at the beginning of a conflict and an increase at the end.  The suggestion, apparent from at least the eighteenth century, was based on comment in official correspondence, in the courts and in the press.  This project was the first to make a serious investigation of the issue.  It focussed on Britain's mass armed forces in the two world wars of the twentieth century, but concludes with contemporary debates about the impact of war on veterans of the Falklands, Iraq and Afghanistan.  The project explored two distinct aspects of crime and the British military: first, the extant and variety of offending by personnel when serving; second the extent to which the experience of military service in general and conflict in particular contributed to criminal offending by veterans.

Outputs included: Emsley, Clive (2013). Soldier, Sailor, Beggarman, Thief: Crime and the British Armed Services since 1914. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Mapping the Education of the Poor in Nineteenth-Century Suffolk (Marc Fitch Fund)

Rosalind Crone

This project exploited the rich gaol registers compiled at county gaols in Suffolk to map the acquisition of the literate skills by the labouring poor during the seventy years or so before the imposition of a national system of elementary education in 1870. By also tracking criminal careers of individuals, it also shed light on the acquisition of 'illicit knowledge'.

Outputs included: Rosalind Crone, 'Educating the labouring poor in nineteenth-century Suffolk', Social History, 43 (2) (2018), pp. 161-185, together with: 'Educating Criminals; or, Where did the 19th century prisoner go to school?', Social History Blog, April 2018.

Ethnicity, crime and justice in England 1700-1825 (ESRC)

Peter King and John Carter Wood

By analysing the impact of ethnicity on patterns of recorded crime and on decision-making at every point in the criminal justice system during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, this project, which focused primarily on London, with its growing black and Irish population, explored the following questions: Were these ethnic groups over-represented among those accused of property crime, violent crime etc? and were they were more likely to be found guilty and to receive harsher punishments? How were they treated when they brought cases as victims to the courts? It also looked at the language used when ethnic minorities appeared in court, the overall aim being to gain a deeper understanding of attitudes towards race and ethnicity in this period.

Ouputs included: King, Peter (2009). Making crime news: newspapers, violent crime and the selective reporting of Old Bailey trials in the late eighteenth century. Crime, History and Societies, 13(1) pp. 91–116.

Police, Press, Public and the Celebrity Female Victim in Britain 1926-1930 (AHRC)

Peter King and John Carter Wood

This project examined the historical roots of a phenomenon that is commonplace today: the large impact that media sensationalism regarding crime victims and suspects has on initiating and shaping public policy priorities. In interwar Britain, growing public anxieties about the police reached an important peak in 1928, culminating in the Royal Commission on Police Powers and Procedure (that concluded the following year). High profile cases involving female suspects significantly drove those concerns. These women were often turned into media celebrities, discussed not only on the front pages of newspapers but also in parliamentary debates and committees. Their cases spoke not only to narratives of crime and femininity but also to issues such as the presentation and reception of stories of women's victimisation, the police treatment of suspects (particularly women) and the political and press responses to accusations regarding the illegitimate use of police powers.

Outputs included: Wood, John Carter (2010). 'The third degree': press reporting, crime fiction and police powers in 1920s Britain. Twentieth Century British History, 21(4) pp. 464–485.


Policeman photo

Contact us

Please direct enquiries about the Centre, including its facilities and access to its resources, to Dr Rosalind Crone:

Department of History
Faculty of Arts
The Open University
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes

Telephone: +44 (0)1908 652477
Fax: +44 (0)1908 653750