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Forthcoming Conferences / Prochains Colloques


Working as a policeman: the profession of policeman in Europe, 18th-20th c.

International Conference organised by (Université de Caen), CESDIP (CNRS), GERN (CNRS), Centre d'Histoire du XIXe siècle (Université de Paris 1-Paris 4), and IRHIS (Université de Lille 3)

To be held in Caen (March 2007)

With the support of the International Association for the History of Crime and Criminal Justice (IAHCCJ)

Steering Comittee: J.-M. Berlière (Université de Bourgogne/ CESDIP), C. Denys (Université de Lille 3/IRHIS), D. Kalifa (Université de Paris 1/ Centre d'Histoire du XIXe siècle), V. Milliot (Université de Caen/CRHQ)

The history of modern and contemporary police is currently undergoing a deep evolution. For a long time, it was dominated by two approaches to a degree which varied according to national historiographical traditions: on one hand, the traditional approach of the history of institutions; on the other, the history of crime. which prevailed in the seventies . However, both of them shared a neglect of the social history of the police institution, and of the practices and beliefs of those who were the main actors.

The diversity of historiographical situations that nowadays prevails in Europe, and the recent development of knowledge in this field lead us to think that the history of the police would gain from taking on a comparative dimension.

The period from 18th to 20th c. seems particularly fruitful, for police institutions were then confronted with urban growth, social and political unrest, the invention of public opinion and, last but not least the major crises of two world wars. Of particular interest are the successive political régimes and the different styles of government which relentlessly questioned and challenged their legitimacy and practices and to which police institutions had to adjust constantly. These are times when the police examines itself, to justify or adjust its action, to perpetuate its existence, to enlarge its means of action, its numbers, or even its authority.

The focus of the conference will be on actors situated at different levels in the hierarchy, in order to address a number of issues.

(a) How are policemen recruited and trained ? What is their socio-cultural, or family background ? What are the conditions for a successful career ?

(b)What are their professional or individual strategies, the margins of discretion and autonomy enjoyed by policemen, their relationship with society, their own agency or other authorities (political, local, the judiciary).

(c) How are police skills acquired and transmitted? Is there a specific police knowledge and how does it relate to technical and scientific developments in the field?

(d) The diversity institutions invested with police powers has to be taken into account as well as the international circulation of the main actors, the exchanges or confrontation of theories and practices, the competition of different models of policing, etc.

(e) These questions are inked to bodies of discourses on the police, of systems of representation or self-representation among the police, its personnel and units. Our purpose is not so much to present a collection of images, but rather to find a way to understand how police identities, are constructed, individually and collectively. It is also to delineate the repertory of attitudes, relationships or conflicts between the police and the people.

(f) Obviously, a "good" policeman is not so for everyone at the same time. How does one define police zeal ? Who provides the criteria and who uses them for ones own sake? One suspects that there might be contradictory conceptions and internal conflicts over such a definition, which will undoubtedly feed back on the legitimacy of police actions within society.

(g) This leads us to look into the ways police action confronts populations. What are the bases of the social legitimacy of policing, and how does the social compromise on which the so-called "public order" rests evolve ? Which style of policing is more or less easily accepted to settle which type of issue? The question of how "visible" the police should be is symbolic because it refers to the different modes of supervising populations according to circumstances : conspicuously wearing a uniform or, on the contrary, infiltrating the underworld, giving publicity to actions or keeping them secret, organizing a visible presence in certain spaces or resorting to virtual systems... all these dealings involve specific skills, forms of professionalization which can be more or less willingly accepted by populations in search of a new balance.

We hope that this project will meet a with a wide response and will stimulate a lively debate.

Proposals for papers (one page, mentioning your details and the institution you are attached to) are to be sent by e-mail to vincent.milliot@wanadoo.fr by December 1st 2005.


Fondation de la Maison des Sciences de l'Homme

International Association for the History of Crime and Criminal Justice (IAHCCJ)

Groupe Européen de Recherche sur les Normativités (GERN-CNRS)



Research seminar


Organizer: René Lévy (CESDIP-GERN, CNRS, France)

Steering committee:

Jean-Marc Berlière (Univ. de Bourgogne and CESDIP, France), Clive Emsley (Open University, UK), Dominique Kalifa (Univ. Panthéon-Sorbonne Paris 1, France), Michel Porret (Univ. de Genève, Switzerland), Herbert Reinke (Universität Wuppertal, Germany), Xavier Rousseaux (UCL, Belgique), Mario Sbriccoli (Univ. di Macerata, Italy), Jim Sharpe (University of York, UK)

As it touches on one of the fundamental attributes of State sovereignty, the study of military courts stands at the intersection of military history, to be sure, but also political history, and the history of crime and criminal justice, of which it is the militarized variant, as it were. It is for this reasons that the same questions could be usefully asked of both systems.

But, whereas the history of crime and the criminal justice system have been the object of extensive international scrutiny for a quarter century, the military justice system has been largely neglected. Historians of military matters, like those of the criminal justice system seem to have adopted the cruel view of Georges Clémenceau: "Military law is to law what military music is to music", and have consequently disdained this object.

The present seminar, which is part of a broader program launched by the Maison des Sciences de l'Homme, hopes to begin to fill in this gap by mobilizing researchers in the various areas concerned and comparing and combining their perspectives. The main object of the seminar will be to inventory the studies available in Europe and inernationally in view of organizing a symposium at some later time.

Provisional programme

First session: Constructing a history of military law: models, sources, possibilities (Paris, 2-3 or 9-10 December 2005)

Second session: Civilian order and military order : the limits of the military justice system and military law (Place to be decided, 7-8 April 2006)

Third session: The military justice system : judging crimes, target populations, sentencing (Place to be decided, 13-14 October 2006)

The sessions will last for a day and a half. The working languages will be French and English (without translation).

Please send your paper proposals, preferably by email, to:

René Lévy CESDIP Immeuble Edison 43 Bd. Vauban F-78280 Guyancourt mailto:rlevy@cesdip.com

All proposals will be submitted to the steering committee, which is responsible for the final choice