Crime investigation has captured the public’s imagination since the early nineteenth century, and the fascination with detectives and their sleuthing adventures, in real-life and fiction, endures today. Despite widespread interest, there has been little research thus far into how the early police detectives developed their pioneering skills. Police history research has focused on uniformed officers, with little reference to their plain clothes counterparts and researchers have mostly concentrated on the investigative work of the Metropolitan Police. My PhD study extends the existing research beyond the traditional borders of Scotland Yard, to cities outside London, where regional police detectives also became effective crime investigators.
For my project, I am examining a diverse range of hitherto untapped primary sources, mostly from local archives, including watch committee minutes, county trial records and regional police records. A close examination of the interaction between local councils and borough constabularies provides a detailed picture of how regional police detective departments honed their investigative skills, thus professionalizing their role and formalising the use of innovative investigative strategies, such as crime scene analysis, forensic techniques and data collection. The comparison of evidence from several borough constabularies demonstrates that regional police detectives improved their professional skills and abilities in crime detection through cooperation, peer-training and the development of innovative practices in response to local crimes.
This research will make a significant contribution to the field of crime history through the development of a detailed understanding of investigative technique in the Victorian and Edwardian periods. It will provide new insights into how the regional police detectives developed their skills, and thus contributed to the evolution of policing practice. Furthermore, as the study of the historical background of policing strategies and tactics has been established as essential to the study of the history of crime, as well as a prerequisite for developing an understanding of contemporary practices, it would have a direct impact on the formulation of new investigative strategies. The study aims to offer original research which could be widely disseminated within, and have an impact on, the existing academic field, and the public domain.
Alongside my PhD research, I am working as a professional writer and speaker, specialising in Victorian crime and police history. I have published many articles in a wide range of commercial magazines and newspapers, and I am a regular contributor to family history publications, such as Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine. In addition to delivering talks at public lectures, societies, and private functions, I have taken part in many events such as the Henley Literary Festival, the Manchester Histories Festival and at the Museum of London. I have appeared on BBC Radio and TV, including BBC One’s The One Show, and Mysteries at the Museum in the US. My author website is victorian-supersleuth.com.
Academic and professional training
My early career was in modern languages education. I taught French and Spanish at a large comprehensive school for 8 years, where I was also head of faculty. I also lectured in MFL education at King’s College London, and Oxford Brookes.
Other experience and professional activities
I am an active member of the family history research community. I was chair of the Society of Genealogists for four years and I am currently vice president of the Berkshire Family History Society. I regularly contribute to family history research conferences and activities.
- MA, European Business and Languages, London South Bank University (2000–2001)
- PGCE, French with Spanish, King’s College London (1991–1992)
- BA (Hons) French and Spanish, Queen Mary University of London (1985–1989)