Philip Rawlings, Crime and Power : A History of Criminal Justice 1688-1998
Philip Rawlings, Crime and Power : A History of Criminal Justice 1688-1998, Longman, London and New York, 1999, 212 pp., Longman Criminology Series. ISBN 0 582 3040 6
1Despite the lack of any geographic qualifier in title or subtitle (consistent with publication in the only state that is too haughty to put its name on its stamps or warships !) the focus of this book is England and Wales. There are many good reasons to omit Ireland from overviews like this, but given the amount of relevant material now available for Scotland, future works of this kind ought to be able to include both British jurisdictions.
2Crime and Power forms part of a series intended for students of criminology and criminal justice, and it serves its purpose as a historical introduction very well. Rawlings’ coverage and understanding of the main themes of criminal justice history runs from the eighteenth century to the present day, an impressive scope that is well handled. He does not look at developments in the criminal justice system in isolation but in the context of the political and social context of the time. This background information is necessarily sketchy, but assumes little prior knowledge : useful for those from a social science or social policy background who are using this book to gain historical context.
3Rawlings’ work is not merely derivative, but sometimes also introduces his own research. For instance, he questions the view – implicitly underpinned by the attention of much existing historiography – that the’ Bloody Code’ of the eighteenth century was a major break with the past or the future. The author's voice looms louder as we move towards the twentieth century : this is no bad thing given that the intended audience is likely to be exposed to a variety of interpretations of modern criminal justice policy. Sometimes – as in the reference to the police in the 1830s’ targeting deviant individuals’ – the concepts and vocabulary of the late twentieth century are applied in a manner which might suggest anachronism.
4Sections on further reading at the end of chapters are perceptive, excellent, and reflect the book's near-comprehensive survey of a wide range of secondary work. They also draw attention to the gaps which yawn wide at some points in the historiography, despite the ongoing research of the ‘crime wave’. At some points the book's focus is necessarily constrained by these gaps : so the story of changing penal philosophy in the twentieth century is well told, while the evolution of policing during the same period is less clear. Some, but not all, of the sections include an introduction to the ways in which they have been differently interpreted by scholars in the field. Factual lapses are impressively rare for a book that covers such a long period, although Douglas Hurd, not David Waddington, was the Home Secretary who wondered whether prison might turn out to be ‘an expensive way of making bad people worse’.
5The book's long chronological sweep is consistent with its role as an introduction to the subject and it serves its purpose very well. Given its broader scope, it will supplement rather than supplant the existing surveys by Sharpe, Emsley and Garland. It will serve as an excellent introductory text for students and researchers who need to know the pattern of historical development of the British criminal justice system.
Pour citer cet article
Chris A. Williams, « Philip Rawlings, Crime and Power : A History of Criminal Justice 1688-1998 », Crime, Histoire & Sociétés / Crime, History & Societies, Vol. 4, n°2 | 2000, 129-130.
Chris A. Williams, « Philip Rawlings, Crime and Power : A History of Criminal Justice 1688-1998 », Crime, Histoire & Sociétés / Crime, History & Societies [En ligne], Vol. 4, n°2 | 2000, mis en ligne le 02 avril 2009, consulté le 29 avril 2017. URL : http://chs.revues.org/840Haut de page
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