Re: Pies in the face (was Re: PDAs are searchable was Re: blah blah blah)

From: Charlie Stross (
Date: Fri Feb 09 2001 - 05:15:37 MST

On Thu, Feb 08, 2001 at 02:11:41PM -0800, James Rogers wrote:
> >Again: go back to the 1830's and English upper-class types went
> >armed in public because there was a very real probability of violence
> >if they didn't. The fact that the British government *can* ban handguns
> >is a pointer to the level of social change, and the marginalization of
> >violence in private life.
> This is not an accurate representation. The crime/murder rates in England
> dropped sharply from the 1830s to the 1890s.

Yes: which was exactly my point. Until Robert Peel's reforms, England
didn't have anything that today we'd recognize as a police system. A whole
load of reforms, happening around the same time, put the bite on crime --
introduction of municipal police forces, introduction of detection skills,
rationalisation of the penal code abolishing inappropriate draconian
penalties (so that people would be more willing to turn their neighbours
in for, e.g. pickpocketing), introduction of a real prison system ... and,
not to put too fine a point on it, a long-term sustained economic boom.

> In fact, the murder/violence
> rate in England at the end of the 19th century was substantially lower than
> it is at the end of the 20th century. Gun control laws did not go into
> effect until after the first World War, mostly due to fears of civil
> unrest.

Misleading rot. The government in 1922 was *handing out* guns to combat
vets because they were afraid of a revolution. Licensing of firearms
at that time was used for political purposes, to prevent opponents of
the state (read: communists) getting their hands on them. The current
system of handgun control came into force mostly after WW2 ...

> I don't want to get into a debate over this, but violent crime dropped
> sharply after the English started going out armed as a matter of habit
> during the first half of the 19th century in response to the high crime
> rate.

Bollocks to that. Violent crime dropped sharply with the introduction
of modern policing, the disarmament of the nobility, and the evolution
of a modern judicial and penal system.

You've got a *very* weird view of English history. I don't want to get
dragged into a long thread on this, but if you want I have a friend who
has recently finished a PhD in the history of English policing during
the period in question -- I can put you in touch with him if you want.

Clue: the arguments I'm putting are his, not mine. Lest this sounds
like an appeal to authority, I'd like to point out that I do _not_ have
a PhD in the history of the development of the English police forces
from 1820-1850. However, Chris's discussion of that period sounds a hell
of a lot more plausible than yours (and he's happy to argue footnotes
and primary sources).

-- Charlie

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