History of the Police (Query)

Jonathan Parker's picture

I am looking for recommendations of any books/articles/studies done on the history and organization of the police (including gendarmerie) in Central Europe, late 19th-early 20th centuries. I'm preparing a PhD dissertation proposal for a project on the role of the police in state- and nation-making in interwar Czechoslovakia. Anything of a comparative or theoretical nature is most welcome, as well as anything in English, German, Czech, or French. I'm looking to read up on the relevant secondary literature, since my focus previously has been on nationalism and state-building, and I have not had much bibliographic luck on my own so far. Thank you very much for your help.

Here is what I have already found:

Policing Interwar Europe: Continuity, Change and Crisis, 1918-40. Edited by Gerald Blaney. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.

Police in Transition: Essays on the Police Forces in Transition Countries. Edited by András Kádár. Budapest: Central European University Press, 2001.

Police Forces: A Cultural History of an Institution. Edited by Mladek Klaus. Studies in European Culture and History. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.

Paul Bernard, From the Enlightenment to the Police State: The Public Life of Johan Anton Pergen (1991) is a bit outside the time period you researching, but it offers insight into the birth of modern policing in the Habsburg lands.

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“Anybody with ability can play in the big leagues. But to be able to trick people year in and year out the way I did, I think that was a much greater feat.”—Bob Uecker

I'm afraid there is no much published research on the police (including gendarmerie) in Central Europe in late 19th-early 20th centuries, at least in Habsburg Monarchy.
Some information on the gendarmerie in pre-1918 Austria may be found in:
Emsley C., 1997, Gendarmes and the State in Nineteenth-Century Europe, Oxford, Oxford University Press;
Gebhardt H., 2019, The Gendarmerie of the Habsburg Empire During the First World War, in: Campion J., López L., and Payen G. (Eds.), European Police Forces and Law Enforcement in the First World War, Palgrave McMillan, 157–68.

Regarding pre-1918 Hungary, there are two monographs in Magyar:
Csapó Cs., 1999, A magyar királyi csendőrség története, 1881–1914, Pécs.
Parádi J., 2012, A Magyar Királyi Csendőrség. Az első magyar polgári, központositott, közbiztonsági őrtestület, 1881–1945, Budapest: Szemere Bertalan Társaság.

I have just prepared a study on the gendarmerie in the Fin-de-Siècle Hungary (still unpublished), but if you are interested I could send it to you.
Best wishes,
Aliaksandr Piahanau

Hi Jonathan, great topic! I don't know the literature myself, but you might want to contact Chris Aliprantis, currently at the EUI, who recently completed a PhD on international policing practices in 19th C. Europe. On the nexus between state/nation-building and the gendarmerie, I would also recommend Ota Konrad's Cesta s apokalipsy (soon to be translated into English),which - I think - has stuff on the role of the gendarmerie, Legionnaires and soldiers in post-1918 national violence. If you read Polish, I might also have a few more recommendations.

As my PhD is also partially on interwar Czechoslovak history, I would be most happy to talk further about your research and to share my experience of doing research in Czech archives, should you need any advice. Feel free to contact me at lucian.george@sjc.ox.ac.uk

Not sure where you draw the line on Central Europe but I would recommend work by the very recently deceased Clive Emsley. His most recent book is a biography of 'Michael' Wilcox with the main title A Police Officer and a Gentleman. Wilcox landed in Sicily in September 1943 charged with the task of reorganising the Italian police. Later he moved to Vienna where he was engaged in the same work. He ended his career as a Chief Constable in England. Clive also wrote other broader studies of policing, comparing Britain with European cases, in particular the French and Italian as he had good command of those languages.

Hi Jonathan,

What an exciting project! I just finished my dissertation on the Viennese police and I'm so pleased to hear that we will soon have more work on interwar police forces.

Lindsay MacNeill, "Professionalism and Brutality: The Viennese Police and the Public in Extraordinary Times, 1918-1955."

You can also find my article "Guardian Angels? The Viennese Police Response to Antisemitic Violence during the 1925 Zionist Congress," S.I.M.O.N.: SHOAH: INTERVENTION. METHODS. DOCUMENTATION. 2017.


I'd recommend Daniel Schmidt, Schützen und Dienen: Polizisten im Ruhrgebiet in Demokratie und Diktatur 1919-1939

Lindsay MacNeill

Two books in Czech are in this edition series https://www.academia.cz/edice/prvni-republika (Galaš's and Kolář's book).
You might also look if books in this edition series contain something on the period you're interested in https://www.academia.cz/edice/1938-1953
Other important title https://www.academia.cz/ceskoslovenske-cetnictvo-a-policie-ve-sporu-o-te...
Cesty z apokalypsy as mentioned above is here https://www.academia.cz/cesty-z-apokalypsy-dotisk--konrad-ota--academia-...
You should check relevant Czech bibliographies at biblio.hiu.cas.cz
This one is not in the period you study but should be a part of your bibliography and reading to put it in a longer time-frame relevance https://argo.cz/knihy/pozorovat-popsat-stvorit/ . Similarly this book could be vaguely relevant https://argo.cz/knihy/hrich-zlocin-silenstvi-v-case-odkouzlovani-sveta/
Do also check older works https://www.kosmas.cz/knihy/62604/dejiny-policie-a-cetnictva-i/ and https://www.kosmas.cz/knihy/61326/dejiny-policie-a-cetnictva-ii/ , see also http://dejinyasoucasnost.cz/archiv/2007/9/ziskat-si-vaznost-obyvatelstva-/

I might be able to put you in contact with some individuals in Prague. I sent you an e-mail, but if you do not find it, my address is miller-dem@CentralEuropeanObserver.com. Drop me a line when you can.

Dear Jonathan,

This book is about Vienna, but it may help in understanding how the police in central Europe were organised at the time:

100 Jahre Wiener Sicherheitswache: 1869 - 1969, by Herbert Zima and Eduard Hochenbichler, and it is available at the Wienbibliothek.

It's a while since I read it, but it does cover the Habsburg period, so it may have some pointers to police elsewhere in the Empire.

Best wishes,


Thank you everyone very much for these suggestions and recommendations! They are extremely helpful. I look forward to sharing the fruits of my work with you in the (hopefully) not-too-distant future. Thank you once again!

A different part of the Monarchy but Irina Marin's 'Peasant Violence and Antisemitism in Early Twentieth-Century Eastern Europe' has a good comparison of the extent of rural policing in the Hungarian half of the Monarchy compared to the lack of rural policing in the Romanian Kingdom.


Dear Jonathan,

Here are three titles, one of them a memoir, dealing with the Austrian Gendarmerie that might be of use to you:
1) Die Gendarmeriein Osterreich, 1849-1924 by Franz Neubauer;

2) Geschichte der Gendarmerie in Osterreich-Ungarn: Adjustierung 1816-1918; Einsatze im Felde 1914-1918 by Hermann Hinterstoisser and Peter Jung;

3) "...Und immer wieder mussten wir einschreiten!" ein leben "in Dienste der Ordnung" by Leo Schuster (1888-1949), Peter Paul Klaus.

I hope these will be of help.

James Shedel