Over the course of the long nineteenth century, that is from about 1780 to 1914, a distinctive disciplinary state – the policeman-state, to use Gatrell’s telling phrase – developed, and the growth of the criminal justice system was a central aspect of state formation in this period. Power in nineteenth-century society lay primarily in the hands of property-owning Anglo-Saxon males who had substantially more influence than other groups such as women, the poor, vagrants or gypsies. Society, seemingly unequal to a greater degree than before, also appeared to be more fissiparous. The ‘threat to order’ was a recurring theme. The need to preserve order was couched in terms of protecting an essentially law-abiding majority against the depredations of a law-breaking minority. Despite the rhetoric, maintaining order was more than a question of upholding an abstract concept of justice; it was also one of finding a balance between coercion and consent that would ensure the preservation of a complex property-based and patriarchal socioeconomic and political society. The evolution of the criminal justice system, the emergence of the policeman-state, can only be understood in this wider context. This book seeks to provide an overview of the existing literature and an interpretation of the development and significance of the criminal justice system.
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