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The Evolution of Criminal Law and Police


  • Douglas W. Allen

    (Simon Fraser University)

  • Yoram Barzel

    (University of Washington)


Increased standardization of goods was a by-product of the technical innovations triggering the Industrial Revolution. A side effect of standardization was the new abilities it allowed for theft and embezzlement. Two significant modern institutions radically evolved during the 18th to mid 19th centuries to control these costs: criminal law and public police. These institutions strongly interacted with the pace of the Industrial Revolution. Our argument explains this evolution, and helps to explain several historical facts: the role of early police; the fall of the watch system; the removal of possession immunity; the rise and fall of factory colonies; the fall and rise of court cases during the 18th century; and the delay of per capita income in response to technical innovations in the Industrial Revolution.

Suggested Citation

  • Douglas W. Allen & Yoram Barzel, 2007. "The Evolution of Criminal Law and Police," Working Papers UWEC-2008-01, University of Washington, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:udb:wpaper:uwec-2008-01

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gary S. Becker & George J. Stigler, 1974. "Law Enforcement, Malfeasance, and Compensation of Enforcers," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(1), pages 1-18, January.
    2. Richard N. Langlois, 1995. "The Coevolution of Technology and Organization in the Transition to the Factory System," Economic History 9503001, EconWPA.
    3. Szostak, Rick, 1989. "The organization of work : The emergence of the factory revisited," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 11(3), pages 343-358, May.
    4. Huberman,Michael, 2010. "Escape from the Market," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521142663, March.
    5. N. F. R. Crafts & C. K. Harley, 1992. "Output growth and the British industrial revolution: a restatement of the Crafts-Harley view," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 45(4), pages 703-730, November.
    6. Lindsay, Jean, 1960. "An Early Industrial Community – The Evans' Cotton Mill at Darley Abbey Derbyshire, 1783–1810," Business History Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 34(03), pages 277-301, September.
    7. Douglass C. North, 1968. "Sources of Productivity Change in Ocean Shipping, 1600-1850," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 76, pages 953-953.
    8. Jones, S. R. H., 1982. "The organization of work : A historical dimension," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 3(2-3), pages 117-137.
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    Cited by:

    1. Allen, Douglas W., 2009. "A theory of the pre-modern British aristocracy," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 46(3), pages 299-313, July.

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