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Popular policing in Europe (18th -20th centuries)

La participation populaire au maintien de l’ordre public en Europe (XVIIIe-XXe siècle)

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Published on Thursday, November 02, 2017


Depuis une dizaine d’années, la problématique de la justice populaire fait l’objet d’un renouveau historiographique majeur. L’analyse tant des contextes de crise que des mutations politiques, économiques ou sociales des sociétés européennes a montré que ce concept doit être appréhendé au-delà du champ strictement judiciaire et être intégré dans l’horizon plus large des diverses formes de maintien de l’ordre.


International Conference, May 30th and 31st, 2018.


Over the past decade, the problem of popular justice has been the subject of a major historiographic renewal. In particular, the conferences at Trento (2012) and Regensburg (2015) advanced on many fronts in our understanding not only of the multiplicity of fields covered by the concept of popular justice but also of the historical processes that conditioned the transformation, the emergence or the extinction of its various forms, from the late 18th century to the present day. What makes this period crucial is the growth of the State and, conjointly with this, of its monopoly on the exercise of legitimate violence, a movement already been noted in the works of Max Weber, Norbert Elias and Michel Foucault. With the affirmation of nation-states, this led to the legitimization and institutionalization of the exercise of justice by the "people" under the close control of government. The people's jury is probably the judicial institution most representative of this historical process. However, the establishment of "institutional" popular justice has had a far from a linear trajectory. On one hand, the legitimacy of the exercise of justice by the people was continually challenged in Europe by conservative governments and by legal professionals alike throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. The most striking example is undoubtedly that of the Spanish people's jury, which was the subject of no less than nine reforms (adoption or suppression) between 1809 and 1888. On the other hand, institutional popular justice does not suddenly erase other types of popular justice, whether violent, spontaneous, ritualized or traditional. These experience a resurgence, especially during periods of political transition or conflict in the face of the failure or collapse of the State. 

From an analysis of both the crisis contexts and the political, economic and social changes in European societies, it is clear that the concept of people's justice needs to be understood beyond the strictly judicial field and be integrated into the broader horizon of the various forms of policing. Whether with the creation of people's commissions during the French Revolution, the call for denunciations during periods of occupation, the negotiated adoption of consensual policing standards, or the establishment of bourgeois or village guards to combat banditism, local populations were solicited on several occasions to participate in the maintenance of order. This process raises numerous questions: how are local citizens involved into the police systems controlled by the State? What forms do these "people's police forces" take? What relationships do they establish with professional bodies? How do citizens succeed in influencing public order policy? The importance of these questions reflects the need to study the popular components of policing, their evolution over time throughout Europe, and their interaction - or lack thereof - with the bodies of State. By analysing these different dynamics, the conference will serve as a framework for a reflection that moves beyond the traditionally separate treatment of police force and judiciary. Seen from this perspective, the polysemic nature of popular participation calls for a global and "connected" reading of the problem of maintaining public order.

Submission guidelines

Proposals in French or English (max. 2500 signs) should be sent with a short curriculum vitae to antoine.renglet@uclouvain.be and emmanuelberger@hotmail.com

by January 15, 2018.

Steering comittee

  • Antoine Renglet, IRHiS, Université de Lille/CHDJ, Université catholique de Louvain
  • Emmanuel Berger, NIAS-Amsterdam
  • Xavier Rousseaux, CHDJ, Université catholique de Louvain
  • Axel Tixhon, Université de Namur 

Scientific comittee

  • Efi Avdela, University of Crete
  • Roberto Bianchi, Università di Firenze
  • Vincent Denis, Université Paris 1
  • Catherine Denys, Université de Lille
  • Clive Emsley, Open University
  • Andreas Fahrmeir, Goethe Universität
  • Martin Löhnig, Regensburg Universität
  • Jose A. Pérez Juan, Universitad Miguel Hernandez del Elche


  • Université catholique de Louvain
    Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium (1348)


  • Monday, January 15, 2018


  • Europe, justice, ordre public, police, histoire contemporaine, peuple


  • Emmanuel Berger
    courriel : emmanuelberger [at] hotmail [dot] com
  • Antoine Renglet
    courriel : policeintelligence [dot] conference [at] gmail [dot] com

Information source

  • Emmanuel Berger
    courriel : emmanuelberger [at] hotmail [dot] com


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Popular policing in Europe (18th -20th centuries) », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Thursday, November 02, 2017, https://calenda.org/421265

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