Law and History Review


Anglicization and Autonomy: Scottish Policing, Governance and the State, 1833 to 1885

David G. Barrie c1

As with other pillars of the Scottish criminal justice system, the distinctiveness of the Scottish police model from its English counterpart has been widely acknowledged. Its historical development, institutional structure, and level of community support have been portrayed as unique in the United Kingdom. Although rarely heralded as a symbol of national identity in the same way as the Church of Scotland or the legal system, the Scottish police's distinctive customs, traits, and practices have been held up in some studies as a badge of national pride. Often this is for no significant reason other than the fact that police reform in Scotland predated similar developments in England. Municipal police administration has also been depicted as an important symbol of the self-governing nature of Scottish civil society, conferring upon local authorities a wide range of autonomous powers and strengthening their bargaining position with central government in Westminster in London.

(Online publication April 26 2012)

David G. Barrie is lecturer in British history at The University of Western Australia <>. He is author of Police in the Age of Improvement: Police Development and the Civic Tradition in Scotland, 1775–1865 (Cullompton: Willan Publishing, 2008), co-editor (with Susan Broomhall) of A History of Police and Masculinities, 1700–2010 (Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2012), and co-author (with Susan Broomhall) of Police Courts in Nineteenth-Century Scotland: Crime, Community and Control (Aldershot: Ashgate, forthcoming, 2012). He would like to thank Susan Broomhall, Joanne McEwan, Margaret Dorey and the anonymous reviewers for Law and History Review for their helpful comments on an earlier version of this article. Thanks also to the Economic and Social Research Council for a small research grant which funded a large part of the research for this article (RES-000-22-1758).