Studies of police detectives in a historical context, mostly published during the inter-war and the post-Second World War period, generally document the institutional development of bodies engaged in official plain-clothes activity in London and the most dramatic criminal investigations they conducted. Little is revealed about the detectives themselves and their work experience outside the immediate context of crime investigation. The present article attempts to fill this gap by tracing aspects of the personal and occupational history of detectives who served in the London Metropolitan Police during the Victorian and Edwardian periods. To do so, the article first discusses the institutional development of the detective system, the type of detective that the authorities hoped to recruit and the system of recruitment they pursued. Then, using both impressionistic and empirical evidence (collected in the Public Record Office at Kew Gardens and analyzed specifically for this article), it sketches a collective portrait of the detectives, focusing on the circumstances that led them into the detective ranks and the influence of their past on both their personal careers and the evolution of the detective branch. The study also examines the extent to which the pre-police life of these men prepared them for work in a public service that demanded both physical ability and literacy skills, and which operated in one of the largest cities in the world.
- Criminal investigation department
- Metropolitan police
- Recruitment of detectives
- Victorian and edwardian period
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Chemistry
- Plant Science