Between Protection and Control: Policing Europe in the 20th Century

The details
Philosophical, Historical, and Interdisciplinary Studies (School of)
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 5
Monday 13 January 2025
Friday 21 March 2025
10 April 2024


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

This module explores police activities between state protection and social control in 20th century-Europe. We will examine the multi-layered relations between the state, the police and the public tracing continuities and differences in policing dictatorships and democracies.

Themes covered will range from policing during war time (WWI &WWII) and the popular fascination with crime stories over the tasks of police forces in the interwar period to the involvement of policemen in the Holocaust and the policing of protests in liberal democracies.

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To understand the difficult triangle state/ police/ citizens.

  • To critically assess differences/continuities in policing dictatorships and democracies.

  • To evaluate the police’s role in implementing societal norms & creating outsiders.

  • To think about the police as an essential agent in any state and the dangers that this position can bring.

  • To critically examine the relationship between citizens and the police.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module, students will be expected to be able to:

  • Understand the central role of the police force and its influence on state and society.

  • Critically comment on the police’s function of protecting and controlling societies.

  • Understand the social, political and cultural dimensions of policing activities.

  • Enhance critical reading, writing and research skills by preparing for seminar discussions and completing the required written coursework.

Module information

Tasks of the police involved protecting states of 'unruly' citizens, expressed in working-class uprisings or strikes, as well as implementing societal norms of order when policing women, youngsters or alleged 'outsiders.' In addition to social control, police forces had to react to the ever-increasing complaints on rising crime rates and police failures. This suggests that police forces could not only act as organisations implementing state demands but also had to respond to issues articulated by citizens. We will also think about gender and race within policing and in police forces.

Several key questions run throughout the module: Who was protected by the police and who was regarded as a criminal? Whose interests did police forces serve? What did police officers do in dictatorships? Were police forces primarily agents of state control or protectors of the population? How did police activities in dictatorships differ from those in democracies? What was the changing relationship between the police and the citizens?

By seeking responses to these questions, we will find how policing fundamentally shaped and still shapes European societies.

Introductory reading

  • The Black Cop (2022), 24 minutes: A Bafta winning short film on the memories of a former Met police officer:

  • The Open University has created online material (including primary sources) on the Met, the police in wartime, women police and the relations between the police and the public. We will use some of the primary sources presented here. It is worth looking through what is available on this webpage.

  • A ground-breaking book on  policemen and their role in the Holocaust: Christopher Browning, Ordinary Men. Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland (London, 2001) available as inexpensive paperback.

Learning and teaching methods

This module will be delievered via:

  1. One 1-hour lecture per week
  2. One 1-hour seminar per week


This module does not appear to have a published bibliography for this year.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Primary Source Analysis (1000 words)    35% 
Coursework   Essay (2000 words)    65% 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Prof Nadine Rossol, email:
History UG Administrators:



External examiner

Dr Miriam Dobson
University of Sheffield
Available via Moodle
No lecture recording information available for this module.


* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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