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The Ascent of the Detective: Police Sleuths in Victorian and Edwardian England Hardcover – 29 Sep 2011

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 444 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (29 Sept. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199577404
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199577408
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 3.3 x 16.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 921,699 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

... fine and eminently readable book. (Bernard Porter, The Guardian)

This is a valuable addition to the growing body of scholarship on the history of Victorian crime. It does what historical enquiry surely should always do: raises important questions about how the present has the configuration we perceive, and why we have that perception. (Stephen Wade, Times Higher Education)

[An] absorbing work (Frank R Crowe, Journal of the Law Society of Scotland)

About the Author

Haia Shpayer-Makov currently teaches British and European history at the University of Haifa, Israel. She began her academic career by concentrating on the anarchist movement in Britain, but later shifted her interest to the study of the anarchists' enemies - policemen. Author of The Making of a Policeman. A Social History of a Labour Force in Metropolitan London (2002), and co-editor with Professor Clive Emsley of Police Detectives in History, 1750-1950 (2006), she has also published extensively in leading scholarly journals.

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Format: Hardcover
This book brings together Shapyer-Makov's published research on British (mainly London) detectives, and adds much new material. Because detectives were usually recruited from the uniformed branch, there is some overlap with her companion volume on that branch. In both books, she places much emphasis on trying to describe the "occupational life" -as-lived by the officers, for which she has used an important data-set - the service records of the London Metropolitan Police 1889-1909 She clearly explains why the introduction of a detective force was feared as a threat to liberty, a fear which periodically resurfaced, and derived from the perception of continental police as government spies. Her knowledge of anarchist movements thus enables her to explain the irony of the setting up of the "Special Branch" towards the end of the nineteenth century.

The second section explores the relationship between police detectives and print media -the press, detective fiction and police memoires-because the author argues for the importance of public image in the service’s development. She suggests that journalists needed newsworthy stories at a time when the public read avidly about crime; detectives needed a positive image and public co-operation, and so shared information with friendly journalists on an ad hoc basis - however, the press could be very critical in reacting to detective police failures, dubious methods such as entrapment, any hint of corruption (rightly), and also when the police did not wish to share with them all the information at their disposal.

Shpayer-Makov is innovative in placing detective fiction in a historical context to explore the social attitudes towards police detectives it reflects.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Rob Hardy on 14 Feb. 2012
Format: Hardcover
Early Victorian Britain was proud that it had no detectives. Late Victorian and Edwardian Britain, conversely, was proud of its detectives, and everyone still knows of the most famous one, Sherlock Holmes. He might be fictional, but he rose at the time detective forces rose within Britain, and there are necessarily links between the legend of Holmes and the reality of British police services. The links, and much more, are investigated in _The Ascent of the Detective: Police Sleuths in Victorian and Edwardian England_ (Oxford University Press) by Haia Shpayer-Makov. The author teaches history in Israel, but has written previously on the history of the British police. Her current work is heavily academic and extensively researched and footnoted; the first part gives the details of the history of the growth of the branches of the detective service (necessarily concentrating on London), recruitment, pay, and so on, and will be of interest mostly to experts in the history of police work. The second part has to do with how detectives were presented within the print media, in newspapers, fiction, and in memoirs, and will be of interest to the fans who enjoy the eternal fascination of Holmes, as well as his many fictional counterparts.

Britain had police forces before it had detectives. The administrators of the new police force gradually realized that while uniformed men out in public might keep some crimes from happening, if a crime did happen, it was unlikely that a policeman would be easily available to interrupt it and that some arrangement had to be made to investigate and trace criminals after the fact. This was despite worries that non-uniformed police would operate in secret and use disguises. The press became vitally interested in Scotland Yard and in detectives in general.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 2 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Setting the Stage for Sherlock 14 Feb. 2012
By Rob Hardy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Early Victorian Britain was proud that it had no detectives. Late Victorian and Edwardian Britain, conversely, was proud of its detectives, and everyone still knows of the most famous one, Sherlock Holmes. He might be fictional, but he rose at the time detective forces rose within Britain, and there are necessarily links between the legend of Holmes and the reality of British police services. The links, and much more, are investigated in _The Ascent of the Detective: Police Sleuths in Victorian and Edwardian England_ (Oxford University Press) by Haia Shpayer-Makov. The author teaches history in Israel, but has written previously on the history of the British police. Her current work is heavily academic and extensively researched and footnoted; the first part gives the details of the history of the growth of the branches of the detective service (necessarily concentrating on London), recruitment, pay, and so on, and will be of interest mostly to experts in the history of police work. The second part has to do with how detectives were presented within the print media, in newspapers, fiction, and in memoirs, and will be of interest to the fans who enjoy the eternal fascination of Holmes, as well as his many fictional counterparts.

Britain had police forces before it had detectives. The administrators of the new police force gradually realized that while uniformed men out in public might keep some crimes from happening, if a crime did happen, it was unlikely that a policeman would be easily available to interrupt it and that some arrangement had to be made to investigate and trace criminals after the fact. This was despite worries that non-uniformed police would operate in secret and use disguises. The press became vitally interested in Scotland Yard and in detectives in general. One of the keenest admirers of the detectives was Charles Dickens, who interviewed detectives and went about with them on their investigations, writing admiring pieces like "The Modern Science of Thief-Taking" for his magazine _Household Words_ in 1850. It was such steps, the author says, that made detectives an accepted part of British policing. There were pseudo-memoirs of police detectives, and then Sherlock Holmes came on the scene. His extraordinary figure runs through many of the chapters here. Holmes was not a police detective, but the distinction between the private detective and the police detective was not always clear in reality. Some stories had the police detective functioning in a private capacity, and this was in accord with real practice by off-duty policemen. The pseudo-memoirs were always written as if by a police detective who solves the case, but in other detective fiction, private investigators like Holmes eventually predominated. Not only did private investigators predominate numerically, but they overcame the police detectives who would make wrong assumptions, arrest the wrong person, and miss vital clues. In the later Holmes stories, however, the police detectives were more competent, perhaps reflecting the good nonfiction press they had been getting. The final chapter here is about the nonfiction memoirs of detectives, and as might be expected, many of the former detectives specifically cited their infuriation with Holmes and his slighting attitude toward their peers. A detective could write little while on the force except for articles to police journals, but in retirement, many used their memoirs to advance the cause of police detection. They seldom battled against their image in the daily press, but often specifically criticized the superhuman detection capability of Holmes, and especially argued how little they used the despised practice of adopting disguises, whereas Holmes was a genius at that suspicious art.

Shpayer-Makov seems to have read all the obscure pulp novels, all the forgotten memoirs (actual and pseudo), and all the newspaper stories. This is a detailed and well-organized look at the British detective at the scene of the crime, in the newspaper, and in novels. At the start of this rich historical account, the very idea of a detective force is acceptable to no members of any class within Britain, and by the end, the detective is regarded as, if not a hero, then at least a stolid, hardworking official with the best interests of the public at heart. An ascent indeed.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Excellent reading 4 Dec. 2012
By Diane Ferguson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Informative as well as entertaining. Very useful for students doing Victorian History. Well written with enough details to assist one with research papers
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