The Regency Had No Crime

Which is why they had no need of police. In fact, they feared the idea of police. The watch and a few Bow Street Runners were quite enough, thank you.

It is true that crimes were frequently committed during the years of the Regency, just as they had been in the centuries before, and would be in the centuries after. But the people of Regency England did not live with the constant threat of "crime" as many people perceive it today; a contagious social disease, a threat to the very fabric of our society. Of course, that concept will vary depending on when and who writes the history.

Records, including statistics, on crime in England began to be published in parliamentary papers, beginning in 1805. After intensive study of those early nineteenth-century crime records, modern researchers have determined that our current concept of "crime" had not yet taken hold of the public consciousness in the first couple of decades of that century. That did not happen until nearly a decade after the Regency was over, when "crime" as a significant social concern was, in fact, a means by which to articulate increasing anxieties about social change and the crumbling social hierarchy. Essentially, it was by playing upon these fears that Sir Robert Peel, the Home Secretary at the time, was able to build the necessary support to get a bill through Parliament in 1829 which established the Metropolitan Police Force.

The word "police" came to England by way of France, in the late Middle Ages. The word came to France through the Latin, politia, which in turn is a latinization of the ancient Greek term polissoos, meaning "someone who guards a city." Though the word was known in England, until the nineteenth century, it was used primarily to designate French and Continental "police" forces. But the concept of such forces was generally despised in England as it was perceived to be a symbol of foreign oppression. A form of London police was created in 1663, but were called "night watchmen." They were the first paid force, and were responsible for guarding the city streets, as an auxiliary to the larger force of unpaid constables which had been in existence long before. These watchmen were later known as "Charlies," as they had been founded during the reign of King Charles II. Nearly a century later, in 1749, Henry Fielding began organizing the Bow Street Runners, a quasi-professional group of constables who were paid by the government and were formally attached to the Bow Street Magistrate’s office. Fielding’s brother, John, who succeeded him in office, worked very hard to introduce more effective policing methods. But the term "police" was never applied to this force, until they were absorbed by Peel’s Metropolitan Police Force in the 1830s.

The first known use of the word "police" in Great Britain, was in 1714, in government documents for an appointment made for Commissioners of Police in Scotland. In 1798, the Thames Marine Police were created to protect the merchandise which was shipped in and out of the Port of London, in an attempt to curb the inordinately high rate of theft and pillage along the docks. In the very first year of the nineteenth century, on 30 June 1800, at the request of Glasgow city officials, the Glasgow Police Act was passed, which established the City of Glasgow Police. This was the very first professional, municipal police force in the British Isles. Other towns in Scotland also petitioned Parliament for their own police forces, and most of those petitions were granted. In 1805, with the success of the Thames River police, a Bow Street magistrate, Sir Richard Ford, established the "Robin Redbreasts," a mounted patrol working out of Bow Street. They wore blue coats and scarlet waistcoats, thus their nickname. All were armed with clubs, swords and pistols. They travelled in groups along the roads on the outskirts of London to deter highwaymen. In Ireland, the first organized police force was set up as part of the Peace Preservation Act of 1814. But not a single "police" force was created anywhere in England at any time during the Regency. Peel’s "bobbies" were not established until just a year before the death of George IV. Even today, the word "police" is used much less often in the United Kingdom than it is in other countries. The official term for a body of police throughout Great Britain is most often "constabulary."

The people of Regency England held attitudes closer to those of the eighteenth century than would the Victorians by the middle of the nineteenth century. Which means that they believed it was their responsibility to protect themselves and their families. It also meant those living in the Regency would avenge themselves when their honor was impugned, one of the reasons why gentlemen still considered duels were appropriate for settling personal grievances. They did not expect their government to protect them, in fact, they would have been horrified at the idea. They did expect the government, in the form of the army and navy, to protect them from foreign threats, such as Napoleon. But they did not want standing forces internally, which was the general perception of what a police force would mean. There was certainly a small faction, some in the government, and some out, who would have been quite pleased to have a standing internal quasi-military force, but they remained in the minority throughout the Regency.

When the French Revolution first broke out, there was some fear among the aristocracy in Britain that the same type of revolution might be taken up there. But that fear soon faded, for some significant reasons. Most importantly, relations between the English people and their monarch were very different than those in France. King George III, who had only just recovered from his first serious bout with madness the year before, was much loved by the people, who fondly knew "Farmer George" as a devoutly religious man, a faithful husband and father, thrifty and hard-working, just as many of them saw themselves. In addition, relations between the majority of the English aristocracy and landed gentry and their tenants was, for that time in Europe, rather egalitarian. Mr. Knightley, the hero of Jane Austen‘s novel, Emma, is a classic example. He is a wealthy landowner, with many tenants, but he does not play the high-and-mighty master with them. He is involved with their daily lives, and many, such as Robert Martin, consider him a friend. They are quite comfortable coming to him to discuss personal matters. Perhaps all the landlords of England were not quite so benevolent as Mr. Knightley, but most had very good relations with their tenants. Few people with a comfortable life wish to rise up an destroy the status quo, so the French Revolution had little chance of gaining a foothold in England. And very soon, Napoleon set the seal on that attitude, with his plan to invade England. However much the British might squabble amongst themselves, they pull together against a common threat. One might say the Little Corsican kept the Regent secure and comfortable on his throne, for as much as the people were coming to despise him, they hated Bonaparte more, making Prinny the lesser of two evils.

For all these reasons, there was little social unrest in England during the Regency, one of the most typical reasons used to establish a police force. There were occasional outbreaks of social violence, such as the Luddite Movement, during the Regency, but they tended to be restricted, both politically and geographically, and were quickly quashed by the army or simply faded away due to lack of general support. Outside the cities, a few highwaymen still occasionally plied their trade, most often along desolate areas of the London road. But, by the Regency, highwaymen as a breed were dying out, in part, due to the efforts of the Robin Redbreasts. By then, highwaymen were more likely to be seen upon the stage than on the roadside. Poaching was still a problem in the country, and the random cow or sheep still might go missing. The destruction of property in a drunken brawl was not infrequent, but damages were typically inconsequential and recompense was usually made promptly. Otherwise, there was little violent crime in rural England.

There were, to be sure, more crimes committed in the cities and towns, most especially London, but they tended to be isolated to certain areas. During the Regency, no one in his right mind would venture into the rookeries of St. Giles unarmed, or even alone, particularly not after dark, if they could avoid it. For the place was infested with various thugs, pick-pockets and prostitutes. But crime was not particularly organized there during the Regency. The majority of crime at this time was committed by those who were desperately poor, in an attempt merely to survive. Some orphan children, typically pick-pockets, did band together, but more for companionship and mutual protection than to systematize their thieving. There were few, if any, Fagin-like characters abroad in Regency London, organizing bands of children into a criminal force. That was to come in the years after the death of George IV. Prostitution was wide-spread during the Regency and was certainly a crime, but as men in even the highest reaches of government took advantage of the trade, there was little real effort to stamp out that particular crime. It was essentially non-violent, and ignored, or at least tolerated as a necessary evil by nearly everyone.

There was actually very little crime in London’s West End, particularly in fashionable Mayfair, during the Regency. Poverty was the root of most crime during the Regency, and yet, it was that very poverty which effectively curtailed most crime in the modish areas of the city. Those who could not dress the part were immediately exposed due to their impecunious appearance. They would have been instantly suspect by the watch and trailed or perhaps even taken up for questioning.

Through the years of the Regency, most English citizens were strongly opposed to the establishment of a police force. The two main reasons for their opposition was the importance every Englishman placed on his individual freedom and personal liberty, and the long-standing tradition of the preference for localized, rather than national government. The beginning of the end came with the Peterloo Massacre, in August of 1819. Increasing hardships after the end of the Napoleonic Wars, along with the deterioration of the country’s sense of unity with no common external enemy, led to growing civil unrest. The use of military force to put down this peaceful protest for reform generated great public outrage. It was clear to the conservative government that they had need of a non-military, "civilian" force to maintain public order. Though it took another ten years, in part by dint of an ongoing campaign to convince the public that "crime," that contagious social disease, was a growing threat to their peace and security, the bill passed Parliament which established the Metropolitan Police in 1829. And authoritarian bureaucrats, politicians, and police officials have been manufacturing political capital out of the concept of "crime" ever since. By fanning the flame of fear over the threat to the social order, particularly among the growing middle-class, which lacked the ingrained sense of power and tradition of the aristocracy, the growth of a disciplinary state has steadily increased, with the acquiescence of the apprehensive public, who continue to surrender more and more personal liberties for the supposed good of that disciplinary state. Our Regency ancestors would be appalled.

It is true that crimes were committed in Regency England, but the people who lived at that time did not see the occasional theft, public drunkenness or random property damage as a threat to their society. And so, they saw no reason for a standing police force, which was more likely to inhibit their liberties than to protect them. If someone stole something from them, they considered it their responsibility to regain it. There were routinely advertisements to be seen in the newspapers describing articles which had been "lost" with an offer of a reward for their return. Scholars believe that, in many cases, those items had been stolen and there was a good chance the owner was able to recover them by paying a small reward. It is very likely that the person who returned the item for payment was the person who had stolen it, but most owners were less concerned with prosecuting the thief than in regaining their property. Few people would agree with that practice today, but to those in the Regency, it seemed a logical and efficient means by which to recover their property, as it would have been to most people during the previous centuries. The same held true when a gentleman felt he had been insulted or injured by another of his class. They dealt with the matter on the field of honor, they did not seek out the authorities to settle what they considered a private matter. Yet again, the Regency was the end of an older way of thinking, in this instance, about "crime," which would eventually give way to what we now consider the modern concept of "crime" and the need for a standing police force.

For further reading on the history of crime and police in England:

Melville Lee, William Lauriston, A History of Police in England. London: Methuen & Company, 1901.

Smith, Lesley M., ed., The Making of Britain:   The Age of Revolution. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987.

Wood, John Carter, Violence and Crime in Nineteenth-Century England:   The Shadow of Our Refinement. London: Psychology Press, 2004.

Wrigley, Edward Anthony, Nineteenth-Century Society: Essays in the Use of Quantitative Methods for the Study of Social Data. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972.


About Kathryn Kane

Historian with a particular interest the English Regency era.   An avid reader of novels set in that time, holding strong opinions on the historical accuracy to be found in said novels.
This entry was posted in Politics & Law and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to The Regency Had No Crime

  1. Azy says:

    This is an interesting article. I have one question… Okay, I have several questions, but I’ll stick to one for the moment: who protected the Regent while he was, say, kicking around at his summer home, drinking and partying with his dandies? I mean, he did that sort of thing for sure. So, what if one of em got a bad hit of snuff or went psycho from some unrecognisable bread fungus or just decided to off him cause they caught him tapping their laudanum? What then? Could he just shout for some big bloke with a bayonet to kick in the door and jab Beau “the berserker” Brummel in the head? How did that work? Who protected him, and how?

    Okay, so it’s a multi-faceted question, but it’s still, technically, only one. Or maybe it isn’t; but I’m unapologetic, so you’ll just have to shake your head and tsk-tsk in obvious annoyance. Once you’ve satisfied your righteous indignation, please, by all means answer my question(s). I’ve often wondered.

    • Kathryn Kane says:

      Thank you for taking the time to read the article and to consider its ramifications. I am not in the least indignant, in fact, I am flattered, as it is always my wish to stimulate thought and conversation with my articles. Your questions are most welcome.

      There was nothing like the secret service, or special military details, to protect George, when he was Prince of Wales, Regent, or even King, as we have today. He did typically have a military escort when traveling, but if you know Prinny, you know that was as much for show as for protection. He loved all that pomp and circumstance.

      In reality, the best protection the Prince had in public was that most people revered the office, if not the person who held it, and only those with a serious mental disturbance in that era would ever have considered using violence to make a protest or right a perceived wrong. The social hierarchy was so deeply entrenched that very few would think of raising a hand against those they considered their betters. Not to mention the fact that in most cases, it was those above them who could maintain their standard of living, if not their very survival. The English have always been a very traditional people, and would only rock the status quo under extreme duress, such as the Luddite uprisings. Violence was not a natural response for most people during the Regency.

      George’s royal power was also a form of protection. If George was your friend, many doors and opportunities were open to you. Thus, his cronies wished him to retain that power in which they shared by association. For the most part, they were gentlemen, and not prone to violence, so, even if he did something which seriously annoyed them, though they might have strong words with him, it was highly unlikely they would raise a hand to him. And, even if anyone should be driven to that extreme, others around him would stop the attacker, not wishing to see their golden goose, in the form of Prinny, harmed. In fact, most of these men would be delighted to offer the Prince their snuff, their laudanum, or anything else he wanted, as he was known to be very generous in return.

      However, even if someone had truly wigged out while with George, there was a kind of back-up plan for his protection in all his residences. He included a number of former prize-fighters among the staff at all his houses. They served as footmen, porters, or grooms. These men were large, tough and skilled in taking a man down in short order. They stayed in shape, and at least one or two of them was usually within call, should they be needed.

      In fact, it was one of these former prize-fighters, who worked as a porter at Carlton House, which gave rise to one of Brummell’s insults to the Prince and Mrs. Fitzherbert. The porter was a massive man, known as Big Ben. The Prince was always conscious of his increasing weight and was shocked and hurt to learn that the Beau often referred to the Prince as “Ben” and Mrs. Fitzherbert as “Benina.”

      So, even though there was no secret service or any other special detail assigned to protect the Prince 24×7, he was quite safe, for the most part. Even when he went about in public, or dined at private homes, he was in little danger. There were very few Englishmen, of any social class, who would think of harming him, for as much as he was despised in his later years, he was still the King, the head of their country. To harm him was to harm the state, not to mention the fact that it was high treason. George led a life essentially unencumbered by the security which world leaders today all have to endure. Which is just as well, as he would certainly have objected to the limits it set upon his life. Many leaders of today may well envy him his freedom.

      Thank you again for stopping by, and for your thoughtful questions.



      • Azy says:

        Awright, so here’s my next question: if you, you personally, were reading a book, and those details were ignored or somehow invalid because of something in the backstory/plot, would you slam the book in disgust, or would you suspend your disbelief?

        I suppose with me it depends on the story and how well it works; because I’m not an historian, and, unlike reality, fiction has to come together and make sense somehow. I guess I’d just chalk it up to alternate universes. Then I can have my Regency Romance and my Sci-Fi all in one go. RegenSi-fi! It’s a whole new genre! =)

  2. Kathryn Kane says:

    One of the disadvantages of being a historian is that, when you read books set in a time with which you are very familiar, these historical inaccuracies are glaringly obvious. There have only been a couple of occasions on which I have been completely unable to finish a book, but there have been many occasions on which I have found reading a book with numerous glaring historical inaccuracies very frustrating.

    For me, if the author writes well, and their characters are likeable and engaging, I can usually stay with the book, as I then typically care enough about the story to overlook the historical errors. And I love words, so good writing is a strong hook for me. But if the writing is bad, the characters are annoying, or TSTL (too stupid to live) and there are a flock of historical errors, then I relieve my frustration by throwing the book across the room. 😉

    I have also read a few novels in which the historical details were letter-perfect, but the characters were boring or weak, or the writing was dull. Those books do not always hold my interest, either. When I am reading a Regency romance to relax, I want to care about the characters, as well as find them in a, basically, historically accurate setting. That is a tall order for an author, since, clearly, as a reader, I want to have my cake and eat it, too. I want good writing, engaging characters and a reasonably historically accurate setting. Georgette Heyer delivered on that nearly all the time, which is why I am such a fan of her work. But I cannot just keep re-reading Heyer, so I do often have to suspend disbelief for a bit of light entertainment. That is also one of the reasons I began publishing the Redingote. I thought that if I made these small snippets of historical information readily available, at least some Regency authors might take advantage of them. And, I must admit, I do use this as a forum to rant about truly egregious historical errors I encounter in my reading. 😉

    Regency Sci-Fi? Good Grief, a frightening thought! But some of the novels which I have read over the years might very well fit into that category. Perhaps that genre is already on its way to being invented. I tend to avoid time-travel or paranormal Regencies, as I am more interested in reading about Regency characters in their natural habitat, so to speak. But I would imagine there may be a market for such stories. To each his own!



    • Azy says:

      Okay, so what about this: the characters and scenarios are deliberately deviant from typical social norms because the books essence is one of “WTH is going on here?” Like a bizarre Regency mystery of sorts, one in which the period is accurate on the outside of the plot, but on the inside that junk is MESSED UP! What then? Would you be able to get sucked into a story if the inside details were meant to be baffling (baffling in an intriguing way), or would you still have a hard time suspending disbelief even though you are never expected to believe that the behaviours and situations are exemplary of the period?

      • Kathryn Kane says:

        There is no chance I would get sucked into such a story, for, if that kind of convoluted plot were indicated in the blurb on the back cover, or was revealed by perusing a few pages, I would put that book back on the shelf and it would stay in the bookstore.

        I do not want “bizarre” or social deviance in my recreational reading. There is enough of that in the real world, I have no desire to go looking for it in fiction. I spend a large chunk of my free time reading or writing history. When I treat myself to a spot of fiction, I want something light, ideally a story in which the characters must develop their relationship while negotiating the social mores of their time. A sub-plot involving a bit of spying for the Crown is about as far as I care to go. I have no interest in murder mysteries or any other type of crime drama wrapped in a Regency wrapper.

        I truly do miss the traditional Regencies, which are no longer published today. Their settings were usually fashionable London, or a bucolic country estate. There were balls and picnics and rides in the country, while the hero and heroine negotiated the intricacies of romance and finally made it to happily ever after. I have a large collection of those, and I re-read some of them from time to time, when I can’t find anything currently in print which catches my interest.

        I am not seeking angst in my recreational reading, nor do I care to be confused. I just want a bit of fun. I want characters, behaviors and situations which are exemplary of the period. That is the main reason I read Regencies. I would imagine there is a market for the type of story you described, but I am not of its number.



    • A Bee's Buzz says:

      I’m not sure Regency sci-fi is undoable (or rather, impossible to do well). There was, after all, rather a lot of science going on, and one of the entertainments of the time was to watch scientific experiments being performed. But it would have to be rooted in the science of the era, so more Jules Verne or Mary Shelley than Larry Niven.

      • Kathryn Kane says:

        There was certainly a fair amount of science going on during the Regency and even more pseudo-science happening. Any of it might be made to serve the plot of a Regency science fiction novel.

        However, I will never know as I have absolutely no interest in reading such stories. I only like Regency romance, with the settings and characters squarely in the Regency period, and the emphasis on the romance. I want to escape my daily life for a brief, pleasant sojourn in Regency England. No murder, no mayhem, no science fiction, just rides along Rotten Row, picnics at Richmond and grand balls in fine houses while the hero and heroine work things out.



  3. Pingback: The Private Language of the "Eaters of Buttered Tostes" | The Regency Redingote

  4. Buzzy says:

    I don’t want to challenge your knowledge of the period, as it is clearly much greater than mine, but this post really astonishes me. I’ve been reading (for a P&P story) through the records of the Old Bailey, as well as a biography of William Garrow by John Hostettler, and the impression is not that there was a different conception of crime, or very little crime, but rather a different set of mechanisms for approaching it. Bow Street Runners were needed in cases where victims were either unavailable (murder), or when a crime was committed against the State. In all other cases, individuals were responsible for bringing charges against those who committed crimes against them.

    The person laying the charge was also responsible for finding witnesses to make the case. The judge and jury, then, were all that the State needed to provide. Lucrative awards for successful cases (typically 40 pounds) reduced the chances of criminals paying off their accusers. It was a very cheap system (for the State, anyway), with the minor drawback of advantaging wealth, in that only those who could afford to leave their work long enough to wait for their case to be called could find justice and well-off criminals could buy off their accusers.

    The claim that “most owners were less concerned with prosecuting the thief than in regaining their property” likewise seems to have a built-in class bias, as you are referring to those who could afford to pay for advertisements. It also, however, reflects the reality that values were changing faster than the law. According to the Garrow biography, people were turning against the too-common, obvious disparity in value between a human life (as the penalty for petty theft was death, and for very, very petty theft, transportation, which often amounted to the same thing) and the loss of a bit of property. As a result, many chose not to prosecute out of simple humanity and juries looked for excuses not to convict. Add in the late 18th century development of serious advocacy by defense attorneys, greatly reducing conviction rates, and the incentive for a well-off, educated person to prosecute was slim. The Old Bailey records show an awful lot of prosecutions being brought by people with very little themselves, hoping for that 40 pounds, or trying to shift blame for a crime they themselves were involved in.

    And may I say how much I’m enjoying your blog?

    • Kathryn Kane says:

      Apparently I did not make my point clear enough, for which I apologize. There was certainly crime in Regency England, but it was not perceived by most people as we tend to perceive crime today, as something to fear and to protect ourselves against. During the Regency, and for at least the last half of the eighteenth century, most people of the upper and middle classes appear to have been essentially oblivious to crime, unless it intruded into their lives. Few people, especially in the country locked their doors. A dog or a goose was as far as most went for an alarm system. They did not want police forces in their cities and towns on the chance that crime might be committed, which is a very different attitude that most of us have today.

      Once crime was committed, then it was dealt with much as you describe above. There have been many volumes written on the history of both crime and the criminal justice system, but that was way beyond the scope of this article, or my interests. My goal was simply to show how attitudes to crime and the perceived need for protection have changed over the past two centuries.

      I am glad to know you are enjoying The Redingote, I hope you will continue to do so.



      • Buzzy says:

        Ah, much clearer now.

        That’s not just true of the Regency period, of course. The perception of crime as a widespread social problem, rather than specific to certain neighborhoods and classes of people, is, for the most part, a modern one. Rising levels of literacy, the rapid dissemination of news, and the development of specialize crime reporting have made people much more aware and therefor fearful.

  5. Kathryn Kane says:

    I think you have hit on one of the real reasons for the spread of the fear of crime, the media. And as we are bombarded by increasing volumes of it, it seems our perception and thus, our fear of “crime” increases apace. Perhaps that is one of the reasons so many people suffer from stress today.

    Oh, for those blissfully relaxed and unaware Regency days!



  6. JudyG says:

    Hi. I found your essay on law enforcement in this period fascinating and informative. I wonder if I might ask a question. Was there any kind of Intelligence operation during the war? We know the French ran spies. I assume the British had counter-intelligence. Also, if a violent crime were committed in someone’s home — eg. a murder — what was the procedure? As you state citizens tended to address crimes themselves and rarely resorted to Bow Street. I hope you maintain this blog as the era is truly unique in history.

    • Kathryn Kane says:

      There were intelligence operations ongoing in both England and France since the French Revolution erupted. The English had the jump on the French, since they were more organized and better funded. I was just recently able to get my hands on an extremely detailed book which covers the development of the British Secret Service from the last decade of the eighteenth century right through to the Battle of Waterloo. It is not cheap, my own library did not have a copy and I had to request it through Inter-Library Loan. I am about half-way through the book and am finding it very informative. Fair warning, there was nothing particularly gentlemanly about the behavior of either side, so be prepared to read about some pretty nasty shenanigans. The books is:

      Sparrow, Elizabeth, Secret Service: British Agents in France 1792 – 1815. Woodbridge, Suffolk: The Boydell Press, 1999.

      In terms of a murder in someone’s home, I have no idea what to tell you. I am not a student of English law. I wrote this article when I became fascinated with the cultural and social attitudes related to law enforcement during the Regency because they were so different from those of today. From what I do know, how each crime was handled would depend upon the social standing of the victim and the murderer, or the political power or wealth of their respective relations. You might want to post a question at the Regency Researcher site. I understand that the woman who runs that site has spent a lot of time studying English law of the Regency and she might be able to provide you with more detail.

      I plan to continue to post articles here until I drop. 😉 I agree with you, I think the Regency is one of the most fascinating periods in history and I never grow tired learning more about it.

      Thanks for stopping by!



  7. Kathryn Kane says:

    For those who may be interested, I have recently learned that though the Thames Marine Police was set up in London in 1798, ostensibly to protect the trade in the Port of London, in actual fact, they were created to monitor aliens coming into the city. The Thames Marine Police were part of the budding English secret service and were on the watch for foreign, especially French, agents attempting to gain access to England without the proper papers. Clearly, the Thames Marine Police were not focused on local policing in the sense that we know it today.

    More details can be found in: Sparrow, Elizabeth, Secret Service: British Agents in France 1792 – 1815. Woodbridge, Suffolk: The Boydell Press, 1999.



  8. Dear Kathryn

    Thank you for this very interesting and fact-filled post. You might in turn be interested to know that I am fully immersed in Regency crime as I am writing a series of novels about the work of a magistrates’ constable, Sam Plank. He is particularly interested in financial crime (corrupt bankers, investment fraudsters and so on – nothing new under the sun if you look at today’s newspapers!), and – as you say – is operating in that fascinating period after the Runners but before the Met Police. I am lucky enough to live in Cambridge (England), with its excellent University Library and Institute of Criminology, so my historical research has been very detailed and fascinating – hard to tear myself away from the books to write anything!

    The first novel in the series – “Fatal Forgery” – is set in 1824, and the second – “The Man in the Canary Waistcoat” – is in 1825. I am currently writing number three (1826) and have plotted a series of seven to cover a year each until 1830 (when Sam will retire having spent a year with the Met). They are both on Amazon, and getting good reviews, although “Regency financial crime” is a strange little category!

    Best wishes from Susan

    • Kathryn Kane says:

      Thank you for sharing the information about your book series. What luck to have access to such an important research collection. With such a treasure trove available to me, I would also have a hard time leaving that to get down to the writing!

      You are welcome to post links to your books in a comment here, so visitors can easily find them. I wish you happy researching and strong sales!



    • Azy says:

      Susan, I’m keenly interested in reading your first book. However, I’m broke as a person who’s been swindled by a selfish, greedy banker from the Regency period. Are you planning on doing a promo day anytime soon? If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s leaving worthy reviews.


      • Hello Azy, I am very glad to hear that my Sam Plank books are tempting you. I am always looking for new marketing ideas (you can read about my trials an tribulations on my writing blog: and a promo day has been suggested to me by others. My next task is to work out how to do it! As soon as I do, I will let you know.

        Best wishes from Susan

        • Azy says:

          Well, first thigs first, you’ll have to enroll the book in Kindle Select. It’s not so bad. Kindle Select is a good way to build an audience, and you don’t have to stay enrolled forever. It also has some serious advantages what with Prime and Prime Unlimited users being able to check your book out for free. Seriously, there are times when you will make more royalties from library users than sales, and more readers equal more reviews, and reviews effect your potential sales.

          The only drawback is that while enrolled in Kindle Select, your book is exclusive to Kindle, so you would be required to suspend sales of it elsewhere. If you’re exclusively selling through KDP and Create Space, then this is not an issue. And since enrollment in Kindle Select is only a 90 day option, you can take advantage of the five free promo days and the Prime audience before unenrolling and branching your title elsewhere. By then, presumably, you will have expanded your reader base enough to make publishing on other markets worthwhile.

          Here are some links that you may already have seen:

          Take care!

          • Hello Azy

            Thank you for all of your trouble recommending Kindle Select. I have actually looked quite carefully at it, and it’s not really suitable. One problem is that the loan facility you mention is available only to US Kindle owners – not in other countries. And stats show that UK authors do significantly worse out of the Select programme than do US ones. I do have my books on other e-platforms, so I would be reluctant to suspend those, even for only three months, as it sort of says that they are inferior to Kindle. And frankly I’m a bit nervous about the Amazon monopoly, even if (again) for only three months.

            But I will have another look at it.

            Best wishes from Susan

            • Azy says:

              Ah. See, I’m American, so I know nothing of the UK market. It’s quite good to hear your opinion on it.

              I don’t see Amason as a monopoly, though. They’re huge, but they’re not alone. And if they end up a monopoly, well, as long as it’s because people prefer Kindle to, say, Nook, then so be it. I know people have called to question their ethics, but sadly, as with all big, heartless corporations, you’re not likely to find complete benevolence. I still don’t think there nearly as awful as Walmart.

              None of that’s really important or relevant, though. In the end, it’s all about what works for you as an author, and if it isn’t worth it, then it simply isn’t worth it. That we can certainly agree on! =)

              Maybe I’ll request a buy from my local library. I wonder if they’d take it on.

  9. JIM DOHERTY says:

    Your article seems to be at least ambivalent to the notion of a professional police agency, but doesn’t the Peterloo Massacre suggest the need for a dedicated force trained in law enforcement, rather than leaving it to soldiers trained to fight wars rather than crime?

    Further, doesn’t the success of the Bow Street Horse Patrol (the “Robin Redbreasts” as you refer to them), professional policemen whether the British chose to refer to them as such or not, in curbing the activities of highway robbers, argue in favor of a dedicated law enforcement agency?

    (I should note that I am a cop myself, and, in consequence, am admittedly absolutely biased in favor of my profession; that said, I am in substantial agreement with you about abrogating basic freedoms to an increasingly powerful government; just not with the inference, which I may be drawing in error, that a police force, as such, is a manifestation of that tendency).

    A few historical questions:

    The Bow Street force was divided into several divisions, a plainclothes detective force, officially staffed by “Principal Officers,” and commonly referred to as the “Runners,” a uniformed mounted patrol, the uniform consisting of a bright red vest, a black suit, and (if the pictures I’ve seen are accurate) a black stovepipe hat similar to that worn by the first Met “Bobbies,” and a Foot Patrol. My first question is, did the Foot Patrol also have a uniform? If so, what did it consist of?

    Second, did either the Foot Patrol or the Horse Patrol operate in the hours of darkness, or was that left to the “Charlies” of the Night Watch?

    Did the “Charlies” have a uniform? If so, what did it consist of?

    Did the unpaid constables that the “Charlies” were organized to supplement have a uniform? If so, what did it consist of?

    Finally, are there any Regency-set cop novels that ACCURATELY depict the activities of the Bow Street Runners, historical “police procedurals” if you will?

    Thank you.

    • Kathryn Kane says:

      My article is ambivalent to the idea of a professional police force since it reflects the attitudes of those who lived during the Regency. They did not like crime, but abhorred the idea of a police force as a serious threat to their personal liberty. Modern principles of policing were almost a century away and Regency folks would have considered a police force little more than a standing army quartered amidst them.

      Peterloo, of all Regency events, has little, if anything to do with modern concepts of law enforcement. Some scholars have suggested that there were government provocateurs in the crowd to ensure that assembly was disrupted. The city officials who called out the guard seem to have had their own agendas and would have had no interest in fair or decent management of that crowd. Peterloo is a highly-charged political event which is extremely complex. Perhaps a police force with modern training and attitudes might have prevented the massacre, but such did not exist in 1819.

      I sincerely hope you do not equate Bow Street Runners with professional policemen of modern times. You will be insulting the policemen of today, including yourself. Quite a few of the early Bow Street Runners were criminals, mostly petty thieves, who decided it was easier and more remunerative to turn in or chase their fellow criminals. By the Regency, the runners may not have been criminals themselves, but they tended to maintain ties with the criminal community in order to do their job. They were more like bounty hunters and process servers than true policemen in the modern sense. Policemen of today are the beneficiaries of more than a century of development in the concepts and principles of law enforcement, with a radically different mind-set than that which pertained during the Regency, or in the period which preceded it. I suspect that should a Bow Street Runner be transported through time to today, and you were to meet him on the street, your policeman’s training and instinct would prompt you to keep an eye on him as a suspicious character, if not stop and frisk him.

      In terms of your other questions, I cannot offer many answers. I have not spent much time on the history of policing since there was so little of it during the Regency, which is my area of interest. So far as I know, the Charlies did not wear uniforms, they were civilians who picked up a few extra pence periodically walking the streets and calling the time. They would spend as much time as they could in the watch box, trying to keep warm on cold nights, maybe taking a nip from time to time. Their mere presence may have discouraged a few petty criminals, but most of the Charlies would not have put themselves out to stop crime.

      My recreational reading is in Regency romance, so I don’t read Regency mysteries or crime novels and cannot recommend any to you.



      • JIM DOHERTY says:

        My sense is that the American law enforcement group to which the Runners might be best compared is the US Marshals Service during the Frontier Era. Like the Runners, deputy US marshals worked under a member of the Judiciary (the most famous group of marshals served under Judge Isaac Parker, simultaneously the US District and Circuit Judge for the Western District of Arkansas, which included Indian Territory, present-day Oklahoma; Parker might be regarded as an American frontier counterpart to the Bow St. Magistrates). Marshals were not paid a regular salary, but received a fee for every arrest they made, and for every subpoena served. They also got paid a fee for every mile across which they had to transport a prisoner to get him from wherever he was arrested to the court at Fort Smith, AK. Finally, like the runners, they supplemented their fees by rewards offered by private concerns. As federal employees they were not eligible to collect rewards offered by the Federal Government, but they could collect rewards from railroads, banks, express companies, or private individuals.

        Most marshals operated honorably, but some were corrupt. For example, innocent people were sometimes framed for crimes they did not commit, crimes that might not even have been committed at all, in order to pump up their arrest fees, a corrupt activity similar to that undertaken by some Runners. This was almost always squared away once they came before the Judge, but, in the meantime, they had to be held in custody until their case was called, which might take months, since Parker was the only judge, responsible for hearing both criminal and civil cases, as well as appeals.

        • Kathryn Kane says:

          The marshals sound a lot like what I have read about the runners. Thankfully, the profession of policing has come a long way since then!


          PS – It just occurred to me, if you have not yet read it, you might be interested in the book by T.A. Critchley and P.D. James, The Maul and the Pear Tree: The Ratcliffe Highway Murders, 1811. It is an account of a pair of horrific crimes which took place in the first year of the Regency, and the investigations carried out by the authorities. You may well be appalled by how things were done, but it might give you an idea of what passed for policing and investigation during that time.

          • JIM DOHERTY says:

            Thank you for the recommendation. I haven’t read that book yet, but I’ll make a point of looking for it. I have read all of P.D. James’s Adam Dalgliesh novels. Dalgliesh, both a professional poet and a professional cop, is an unusual yet convincing policemen. In one novel, he proposes to his ladylove via letter, handing it to her while admitting that he’s no Capt. Wentworth. She was, as you probably know, a great aficionado of Jane Austen.

            Oddly, given her talent and her interest in the era, I found her Regency-set crime novel DEATH COMES TO PEMBERLEY quite disappointing.

            Thanks again for the recommendation.

            Incidentally, I don’t imagine comic books are your thing, but just in case you’re even peripherally interested in your namesake, and how she fits into Batman’s fictional universe, you can check out this article:


            Thanks again for the recommendation.

            • Kathryn Kane says:

              I did not read the Pemberley book, but I did see the BBC/PBS film and was rather disappointed myself. Since P. D. James passed away at the end of last year, and I do not care to speak ill of the dead, I will leave it at that. However, The Maul and the Pear Tree is essentially non-fiction, though the authors both draw on their experience to speculate based on the facts they uncovered while researching the crimes. I don’t think you will be disappointed with it.

              Thank you for the link. I will check it out soon.



  10. JIM DOHERTY says:

    Forget that last question, since I see from your response to one of the comments that you don’t particularly like Regency-set mysteries.

    One other question I have to ask, since we’re in the general topic of crime-fighting:

    Do you ever get kidded about Batwoman, Batman’s female counterpart in comic books of the 1950’s and ’60’s, whose civilian identifty was “Kathy Kane?”

    • Kathryn Kane says:

      You are the first to mention Kathy Kane of the Batman comic books to me. I was quite unaware of her until now. One friend did mention to me that the former Boston Mayor, Kevin White, had an aide named Katherine Kane. I was unaware of her, either, since I moved to Boston after she had left office.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s