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Police Stories: Building the French State, 1815-1851

Overview

In the first half of nineteenth century France was characterized by extraordinary regional and linguistic diversity but the state increasingly became a central force in the lives of its citizens. One way that it did so was through its police force, which, as John Merriman details in this work, developed into a modern profession during this period. He describes the careers of policemen, how they were hired, the difficulties they faced and successes they enjoyed. Through the lives of these men, he shows how the ...

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Overview

In the first half of nineteenth century France was characterized by extraordinary regional and linguistic diversity but the state increasingly became a central force in the lives of its citizens. One way that it did so was through its police force, which, as John Merriman details in this work, developed into a modern profession during this period. He describes the careers of policemen, how they were hired, the difficulties they faced and successes they enjoyed. Through the lives of these men, he shows how the political issues of the day, as well as incompetence and imprudence, could bring a sudden, inglorious end to their work in the police. His study of these men underscores how the police helped the state affirm its primacy, winning the allegiance, or at least the obedience, of the French people. Reconstructing events from police reports, Merriman chronicles the street life of Frances's growing towns and cities through the prism of the people who enforced its laws and maintained the peace. Police were on the scene to investigate suicides and deaths; break up workers' strikes and fights among brawling drunkards; adjudicate in cases of merchants cheating customers; deal with cases of missing persons; and control political militants. He also looks at their frequent encounters while policing outsiders, such as itinerant workers, beggars, bands of traveling thieves, prostitutes, and abandoned children. Based on a wealth of primary research from over seventy archives, Merriman offers an evocative Tour de France seen through the eyes of provincial policemen and the people they encountered on their rounds.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This is much more than simply a book about the police, policing, and crime.... Police Stories will also be of immense interest to historians of nineteenth-century France from a wide range of fields, covering as it does ground germane to the study of governance, the professions, urban development and daily life in general."—Paul Lawrence, H-France Review

"Merriman's vivid, deeply researched book fleshes out political and social histories while providing suggestive material for a cultural one.... He provides rich, poignant material for a history of male emotions—ambition and disappointment, virility and fear, friendship and camaraderie—that we have barely begun to write."—Stéphane Gerson, Journal of Modern History

"A really superb exercise in genuine social history.... Even the commissioners of France's 19th-century police may have been less successful in their quest to control human conduct in its finest details than Merriman has in describing their activities in the most sensitive detail, characteristic of the very best of historical analysis."—Mathieu Deflem, Journal of Social History

"Drawing on a wealth of archival material, this book tells us about local political and administrative elites, and the force and limits of government power in provincal France: it affords us glimpses of the shadowy existence eked out by the poor and destitute, and the public and private lives of ordinary people."—Times Literary Supplement

"With his customary combination of verve and gritty local detail, John Merriman tells the story of an expanding French state from the bottom up. His stories show us how the local right hand—or claw—of the national government reached into ordinary people's lives, imposing the center's vision of order. Once again Merriman displays his matchless ability to synthesize analysis, education, and entertainment."—Charles Tilly, Columbia University

"Historians of nineteenth-century France have long been aware of the political surveillance conducted by the commissaires de police, but precious little work has ever been done on the men themselves. In this book John Merriman fills the gap. He paints a rich and vivid portrait of the commissaires—their origins, their careers, their developing professionalism, the mundane nature of most of their work (usually a far cry from the sinister romance of political surveillance) and their problems when caught between jealous municipalities and determined prefects. Based on research in an astonishing range of local archives, this impressive, well-argued book is an important addition to the history of France and will surely stand for generations as the key history of the commissaires."— Clive Emsley, author of Gendarmes and the State in Nineteenth-Century Europe

"Police Stories is a fascinating history of urban policing in nineteenth-century France. With verve and wit, John Merriman has drawn an engaging portrait of French police commissioners, whether lazy or ambitious, incompetent or talented, corrupt or public-spirited, who belonged to a corps of functionaries recruited by the central government but paid by local municipalities. Increasingly, the state increased its control over the police, who developed new professional aspirations, coupled with new tasks of political surveillance, while continuing to police the everyday lives of townspeople. Merriman highlights these fundamental trends of state-building and professionalization in a book that synthesizes a vast amount of archival evidence and contributes not only to the history of the police and policing but also to the more general history of French society and culture in the nineteenth century."— Ted Margadant, author of Urban Rivalries in the French Revolution

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195072532
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 11/24/2005
  • Pages: 264
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.20 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

John Merriman is Charles Seymour Professor of History at Yale University. He has written and edited many works on French and European history, including The Stones of Balazuc: A French Village in Time, A History of Modern Europe: From the Renaissance to the Present, The Margins of City Life: Explorations on the Nineteenth Century Urban Frontier, and The Red City: Limoges and the French Nineteenth Century.

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Table of Contents

1 The system 14
2 Careers 37
3 Getting fired 65
4 Policing politics 89
5 Situations irregulieres : the comings and goings of ordinary people 118
6 Policing the daily lives of local people 141
7 The state's victory over defiant municipalities 167
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