David Churchill (Birkbeck) EHS Anniversary Fellow

Crime, commerce and security in nineteenth-century England

David’s research interests are in modern British history, particularly crime, policing and security. In 2012, he completed his doctoral thesis – ‘Crime, Policing and Control in Leeds, c.1830-1890’ – at the Open University. He has since worked as Teaching Fellow in Social History at the University of Leicester, where he co-ordinated courses on English local history and the history of crime and justice.

David's doctoral thesis investigated the extent to which the police seized control over the response to crime from ordinary people in the Victorian city. This involved research on ‘formal’ policing alongside ‘informal’ civilian-led responses to crime (including crime prevention, detection and conflict resolution). This project also produced studies of urban police governance and relations between the police and the public.

At the IHR, David is extending his existing interests via research on commercial security, specifically the 19th-century lock and safe industry. Initial research priorities include commercial representations of criminals, public lock-breaking competitions and the relationship between security product design and criminal risk. He hopes these studies will in turn lead to a broader work on the 19th-century security industry, uniting its economic, social, cultural and material dimensions.


  • ‘Living in a Leisure Town: Residential Reactions to the Growth of Popular Tourism in Southend, 1870-1890’, Urban History, 41 (1), 2014, pp.42-61
  • ‘“I am Just the Man for Upsetting you Bloody Bobbies”: Popular Animosity towards the Police in Late Nineteenth-Century Leeds’, Social History, forthcoming
  • ‘Local Initiative, Central Oversight, Provincial Perspective: Governing Police Forces in Nineteenth-Century Leeds’, Historical Research, forthcoming
  • ‘Rethinking the State Monopolisation Thesis: The Historiography of Policing and Criminal Justice in Nineteenth-Century England’, Crime, History & Societies, forthcoming
  • [With Peter King] ‘“Left to the Mercy of the Mob”: Ducking, Popular Justice and the Magistrates in Britain 1750-1890’ in Emilie Delivré and Emmanuel Berger (eds), Popular Justice in Europe – 1750-1870 (Il Mulino – Duncker & Humblot), forthcoming