The French Police in the 19th Century

The framework for the police of nineteenth century France, argues Clive Emsley, emerged out of the reorganisation of the Revolution and the reforms of Napoleon.

In 1896 Ré Waldock-Rousseau, a successful barrister and future President of the Third Republic, wrote an introduction to a book on the Paris Police. 'Ils veillent pour que nous travaillions ' – 'they watch so that we may work' – he declared. The same sentiments might be expressed about the English police of the period, especially by an historian or politician, or anyone else who, wittingly or not, perceives them in the same way as the police historian Sir Charles Reith – the thin blue line which saved society from 'uncontrollable crime and mob violence.' Yet even though men looked across the English Channel in both directions for ideas during the nineteenth century, the structure of the French and English police forces developed in vastly different ways.

To read this article in full you need to be either a print + archive subscriber, or else have purchased access to the online archive.

If you are already a subscriber, please ensure you are logged in. 

Buy Subscription | Buy Online Access | Log In

If you are logged in and still cannot read the article, please email

Get Miscellanies, our free weekly long read, in your inbox every week