Annie Mattsson


”The police of Gustav III in a European perspective”

In 1776 a new police establishment (”politiinrättning”) opened in Stockholm – the first step towards a modern police system. The reform was typical of its time. 17th century Europe entailed a successive development of organizations and authorities that increasingly came to resemble what we today understand as ”police”. Paris 1667 is often identified as a starting point, and the Paris police was a common reference during the reformation of the institutions maintaining order in the European cities. In its time, as Foucault have noted, the Paris police was seen as the ultimate expression of the monarchy, where the power and control of the king were extended to individual details of daily life in the capital. In the light of this historical development, this article inquires into how the Swedish ”Kungliga poliskammaren” (royal police chamber) related to a contemporary police discourse. What were the features of the police chambers organization and field of activities, and what were the similarities and differences compared to the French police? What kind of critique was articulated towards it? The study is based on mainly three types of Swedish material: statements from the initiators of the police reform; letters from the police commissioner to his superiors; critique towards the police commissioner expressed in political writings and memoirs. The comparative aspects of the article will take much of its stand on Alan Williams comprehensive study of the French police system, The Police of Paris 1718−1789 (1979), as well as on research on the police on the British Islands, by, amongst others, David G. Barrie, Clive Emsley och Philip Rawlings.

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