Home Office series 2018

Iconic fires and the rise of fire prevention in post-war Britain 

Dr Shane Ewen, Reader in Urban History, Leeds Beckett University

18 January 2018

The Home Office undertook national responsibility for the fire service from 1919 to the turn of the twenty-first century. During the 1950s-80s it was heavily involved in co-ordinating national fire prevention policy, alongside its partners in the service, as well as local government, industry and safety charities. The period reveals the influence of iconic fire tragedies over legislative reform as well as the significance of enforceable fire safety regulations for preventing fires and protecting lives.


What made a good Chief Constable in British city police forces, 1900-1939?

Professor Joanne Klein, Professor of Modern European Comparative History, Boise State University

12 April 2018 

Comparative research between the police forces of Liverpool, Birmingham, and Manchester reveals that each had a distinctly different management culture, even though they had identical legal accountability structures and were of broadly comparable sizes.  In the early twentieth century these distinctions were combined with a variety of different ways that Chief Constables could rise to the top of their forces. An analysis of the careers and the management styles of the seven men who led these forces in the period 1900-1939, reveals that some of them were more effective than others at using their backgrounds and skills to develop effective leadership styles, thus to be able to renew and develop ‘their’ respective forces.


Jihad, the Caliphate and Muslim subjects in the British war effort, 1914-1924 

Dr John Slight, Lecturer in Modern History, Open University 

31 May 2018

In late 1914, Britain was faced with a threat and an opportunity. The threat was a call to jihad aimed at British Muslim subjects by the enemy Ottoman empire that, if successful, could have seen British forces diverted from the Western Front to confront militant Islam across the empire and at home. The opportunity was for Britain to use the war to wrest control of the office of the Caliph from the Ottomans to a British-backed leader in the Middle East, and mobilise colonial Muslim leaders and soldiers for the British war effort. This talk explores these three intertwined subjects, showing why they are relevant to the contemporary situation facing policy-makers, and showing how policies from the past, re-fashioned for the present, might yield positive results. 


Interwar police-led boys’ clubs, and tackling present-day youth violence 

Beth Wilburn, PhD candidate, Open University 

12 July 2018

Police-led boys’ clubs were founded by chief constables across England and Wales during the interwar period. Club organisers sought to remove boys from the streets and the temptations of juvenile delinquency in order to produce good citizens. Physical activities were used to teach members self-control and restraint. Using the Serious Violence Strategy ‘Early Intervention and Prevention’ theme as inspiration, the methods the clubs used are investigated in relation to what can be learnt from their example in the present day.


A historical perspective on crime control and private security: a Belgian case study 

Pieter Leloup, CRiS research group (Free University of Brussels), Institute for International Research on Criminal Policy (Ghent University) 

3 September 2018

Since the last decade of the twentieth century, several authors have claimed that the contemporary and ‘new’ developments in (private) policing and crime control form part of the process of neo-liberal policies and rational choice approaches to crime. However, so-called late-modern strategies and discourses of risk reduction, loss prevention and situational crime prevention were already present in the armoury of crime control measures more than a hundred years ago. To demonstrate the shortcomings in criminological theory with regards to longer-term patterns of crime control, a case study approach to private (security) organisations in the Port of Antwerp between 1880 and the outbreak of the Second World War is presented. Hence, this presentation reveals the policing discourses and practices of private players, in cooperation with the public police and authorities or not. It shows that even during the heyday of the criminal justice state, they aimed exclusively at manipulating the temporal and spatial dimensions of the opportunity structures in which criminal activities could develop, which is quite similar to contemporary approaches. Therefore, existing criminological accounts that stress the discontinuities in policing and security need to be questioned.


The development of the Police National Computer, 1956-1975 

Dr Chris A. Williams, Senior Lecturer in History, Open University

17 October 2018

The arrival of the Police National Computer in 1975 marked a watershed moment in the way that police information was organised and processed. It was also an unprecedented step in the real time control over policing, and in the Home Office's direct involvement in that control. This presentation traces some features of the Police information landscape before 1955, and identifies key features in the way that the HO approached Automatic Data Processing. This was given a high level of national priority, and involved the continuation of the process of centralisation over policing which had been a feature since 1919. The course of the project demonstrated that although some information of relevance to policing (particularly pre-registered data) was susceptible to computerisation, other types (e.g. Modus Operandi indices) were not: not all desired features of the project were implemented.


The Home Office’s Approach to Managing Migration in the 1960s 

Dr Mike Slaven, Lecturer in International Politics, University of Lincoln

26 November 2018

Many of the “Windrush” immigrants in the news recently arrived in the UK in the 1960s, under a regime for Commonwealth immigration with very different expectations about documentation and internal controls than today’s system. This presentation explores why and how the Home Office set up a system which aimed to control immigration – but without extensive document requirements, internal enforcement, or (at first) even a concept of “illegal entry.” Understanding the political and social rationales for such a system is key to grasping the implications of the Home Office’s shifting approach to immigration control, including toward immigrants from this period.


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