Departure of Troops by the London and Birmingham Railway, Sunday Morning

"Departure of Troops by the London and Birmingham Railway, Sunday Morning. 1842. Illustrated London News. Scanned image, bibliographical information, and caption by Philip V. Allingham.

This representation of troops marching toward the train that will taken them to Manchester reminds us that in early-Victorian England few police forces existed, and therefore governments and factory owners used soldiers to maintain order. The recent construction of railways also permitted a central government to exert mmore control because it could send the military to places far-distant from London. That city, however, had Sir Robert Peel's top-hatted peelers or bobbies since 1829, but as Marjorie Bloy has pointed out, the Metropolitan Police "were not immediately popular. Most citizens viewed constables as an infringement on English social and political life, and people often jeered the police. The preventive tactics of the early Metropolitan police were successful, and crime and disorder declined" (complete essay). The English have long looked upon bobbies with affection, but this 1842 illustration emphasizes their their brutality: the policeman in the foreground attacks a respectably dressed woman holding a child. One wonders if the paper's proprietors or just the artist who created this illustration opposed the police. [GPL]

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"Disturbances in the Manufacturing Districts." The Illustrated London News. 1 (25 June 1842): 233.

Last modified 10 October 2006