The best books on the history of policing, crime, and society in Ireland

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an historian of urban crime and policing. I specialise in metropolitan forces, for example the Dublin Metropolitan Police, London Police, and their colonial counterparts. I am particularly interested in the transnational exchange of concepts and personnel. The latter decades of the nineteenth century saw a lively and consistent movement of police across countries and continents, cross-pollinating ideas and experiences, shaping the future of organised policing. I have traced Australian policing roots to the streets of Dublin and London, which are explored in To Preserve and Protect: Policing Colonial Brisbane (2020) through personal life stories of policemen and criminals alike.


I wrote...

A History of the Dublin Metropolitan Police and Its Colonial Legacy

By Anastasia Dukova,

Book cover of A History of the Dublin Metropolitan Police and Its Colonial Legacy

What is my book about?

This book illuminates the neglected history of the Dublin Metropolitan Police – a history that has been long overshadowed by existing historiography, which has traditionally been preoccupied with the more radical aspects of Irish history.

It explores the origins of the institution and highlights the Dublin Metropolitan Police’s profound influence on the colonial forces, as its legacy reached some of the furthest outposts of the British Empire. In doing so Anastasia Dukova provides much-needed nuance and complexity to our understanding of Ireland as a whole, and Dublin in particular, demonstrating that it was far more than a lawless place ravaged by political and sectarian violence. Simultaneously, the book tells the story of the bobby on the beat, the policeman who made the organisation; his work and day, the conditions of service, and how they affected or bettered his lot at home and abroad.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Dublin Hanged: Crime, Law Enforcement and Punishment in Late Eighteenth-Century Dublin

Anastasia Dukova Why did I love this book?

In Dublin Hanged, Henry paints an evocative picture of the turn-of-the-eighteenth-century Irish capital collapsing under rising property crime, food shortages due to series of particularly inclement winters, and political unrest. He also vividly captures the events that led to the organisation of the first metropolitan uniformed police in the British Isles, which came to be widely unpopular. Henry shows, the organisation of the force was costly and in order to fund the new police, the household tax ‘skyrocketed’ virtually overnight. Henry’s analysis reveals there was a marked decline in the frequency of rape and violent assaults in the years following the introduction of the police in October 1786, indicating a degree of effectiveness of the new police despite the lack of its popularity.

Book cover of The Irish Policeman, 1822-1922: A Life

Anastasia Dukova Why did I love this book?

The Irish Policeman, 18221922: A Life (2006), shines a spotlight on the men who made up the controversial Irish Constabulary, while providing an exhaustive historical narrative of the force from its inception in 1822 to disbandment in 1922, as mandated by the Anglo-Irish Treaty, article X. The book shows that a career with the Irish Constabulary, or Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) post-Fenian Rising in 1867, was often the only viable alternative to migration as well as an accessible avenue for upward social mobility. The force offered stable pensionable employment and accommodation, and most of the duties were of a mundane police nature, except in times of political instability.

By Elizabeth Malcolm,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Irish Policeman, 1822-1922 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book analyzes the working and domestic lives of the nearly 90,000 men who served in the Irish police between the establishment of a national constabulary in 1822 and the disbandment of the Royal Irish Constabulary in 1922. It is constructed as a collective biography, tracing the lives and careers of policemen from birth to death. The book draws upon a wide range of sources, some never used before. They include the results of the analysis of a random sample of 8,000 officers and men; unpublished police memoirs and other personal documents; and the letters of some 200 descendants of…


Book cover of Inspector Mallon: Buying Irish Patriotism for a Five-Pound Note

Anastasia Dukova Why did I love this book?

Inspector Mallon covers the latter decades of the nineteenth century in Dublin history, which were characterised by unrest, extremist violence, and police strikes. The late 1800s were also the service years of the celebrated Dublin Police detective John Mallon, ‘the Great Irish Detective’. The book explores the behind-the-scenes relationships between official Dublin and the force, and between the police and the political activists. McCracken examines the impact the Dublin detectives, known as G-men due to their work in the G Division, had on undermining the political threats and bringing known Fenians and members of the Invincibles, responsible for the horrific Phoenix Park murders, to trial.

By Donal P. McCracken,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Inspector Mallon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is the biography of the famous Irish detective and security policeman, John Mallon (1839-1915). He was a farm boy from republican south Armagh who rose to become Ireland's most famous detective and most feared secret policeman, the first Catholic to rise as high as assistant commissioner of the Dublin Metropolitan Police. For decades, Inspector Mallon and the detective G men at Dublin Castle hounded the Irish Fenian revolutionaries. Walking daily through the cobbled streets of Dublin - chatting with the gentry or greengrocers, holing up in seedy smoky bars in the Liberties and Temple Bar, or leading his men…


Book cover of The Bulkies: Police and Crime in Belfast, 1800-1865

Anastasia Dukova Why did I love this book?

It is not widely known that, like Dublin, Derry and Belfast were policed by their own municipal forces. The Belfast Police was responsible for preserving peace and order in the parts of the city which paid their rates. It looked after lighting, paving, and scavenging. Following sectarian violence and alleged police partisanship peaking in the riots of 1864 and 1869, Derry and Belfast forces were deemed inadequate in the face of rising public distrust.  In contrast to the Royal Irish Constabulary or the Dublin Metropolitan Police, which were headed by Commissioners, the Belfast police were under a single authority, the police board, until 1844, and a police committee thereafter – whose members, as Griffin aptly shows, gave ample reason for ongoing allegations of partisanship and corruption.

By Brian Griffin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Bulkies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Ireland, the story of nineteenth-century policing has been dominated mainly by studies of the Royal Irish Constabulary and, to a lesser extent, of the Dublin Metropolitan Police. This book tells the story of the Ã?Â?Ã?«forgotten forceÃ?Â?Ã?Â- of Irish police history, the Belfast Borough Police or Ã?Â?Ã?«BulkiesÃ?Â?Ã?Â-.


Book cover of Policing Twentieth Century Ireland: A History of An Garda Síochána

Anastasia Dukova Why did I love this book?

In contrast to earlier works on the Garda history, Conway frames policing experience in Ireland by examining its history and development in the context of post-colonialism, its impact, and lived experiences. As Ireland achieved independence, she shows, ‘time constraints and lack of alternative experience led to the retention of many core features of colonial policing’, resulting in an organisation ideologically different but practically similar to the Irish forces of the preceding century. In 1925, the new police of the Irish Free State absorbed the Dublin Metropolitan Police, the Civic Guards, who filled the niche left vacant by the disbanded Constabulary, and contentiously, many ex-RIC men. Conway skillfully weaves gardaí interviews into this varied contemporary history of policing the Republic of Ireland.

By Vicky Conway,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Policing Twentieth Century Ireland as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The twentieth century was a time of rapid social change in Ireland: from colonial rule to independence, civil war and later the Troubles; from poverty to globalisation and the Celtic Tiger; and from the rise to the fall of the Catholic Church. Policing in Ireland has been shaped by all of these changes. This book critically evaluates the creation of the new police force, an Garda Siochana, in the 1920s and analyses how this institution was influenced by and responded to these substantial changes.

Beginning with an overview of policing in pre-independence Ireland, this book chronologically charts the history of…


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Ambidextrous: The Secret Lives of Children

By Felice Picano,

Book cover of Ambidextrous: The Secret Lives of Children

Felice Picano Author Of Six Strange Stories and an Essay on H.P. Lovecraft

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author

Felice's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Bold, funny, and shockingly honest, Ambidextrous is like no other memoir of 1950s urban childhood.

Picano appears to his parents and siblings to be a happy, cheerful eleven-year-old possessed of the remarkable talent of being able to draw beautifully and write fluently with either hand. But then he runs into the mindless bigotry of a middle school teacher who insists that left-handedness is "wrong," and his idyllic world falls apart.

He uncovers the insatiable appetites of a trio of neighboring sisters, falls for another boy with a glue-sniffing habit, and discovers the hidden world of adult desire and hypocrisy. Picano exits his boyhood sooner than most, but with this sense of self intact and armed with a fuller understanding of the world, he is about to enter.

Controversial when it first came out, Ambidextrous was burned on the docks of London in 1989 by Her Majesty Inland Service and decried by many. This reprint, with a Foreword by the author, discusses its banned book history and how it has become a classic depiction used by professionals involved in modern childhood studies.

Ambidextrous: The Secret Lives of Children

By Felice Picano,

What is this book about?

Bold, funny, and shockingly honest, Ambidextrous is like no other memoir of 1950s urban childhood. Picano appears to his parents and siblings to be a happy, cheerful eleven-year-old, possessed of the remarkable talent of being able to draw beautifully and write fluently with either hand. But then he runs into the mindless bigotry of a middle school teacher who insists that left-handedness is "wrong," and his idyllic world falls apart. He uncovers the insatiable appetites of a trio of neighboring sisters, falls for another boy with a glue-sniffing habit, and discovers the hidden world of adult desire and hypocrisy. Picano…


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Interested in Ireland, Dublin, and police?

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