Crimes, Constables, and Courts: Order and Transgression in a Canadian City, 1816-1970


323 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7735-1275-6
DDC 363.2'09713'52




Reviewed by Steven R. Hewitt

Steven R. Hewitt teaches history at the University of Saskatchewan.


Are widely reported murders, trials, and incidents of police brutality
examples of media sensationalism or are they symptomatic of deeper
societal ills? This is among the questions John Weaver attempts to
answer in this ambitious study of order and transgression in Hamilton,
Ontario, between 1816 and 1970. The book’s generous use of anecdotes
should extend its appeal beyond an academic audience.

Occasionally, the book misses its target. For example, a more thorough
examination of the relevant literature would have added depth to
Weaver’s treatment of crime and criminal justice in Hamilton.
Similarly, the issue of gender vis-а-vis the police is raised at
several points in the book, but not dealt with in a systematic way.
Finally, the narrative’s constant movement back and forth through time
and across subjects tends to be confusing.

The true value of this book resides in the questions it raises and the
challenges it presents to traditional historical studies of the criminal
justice system. Weaver recognizes that, when it comes to crime and
punishment, there are no easy answers. Crimes, Constables, and Courts
injects a dose of reasoned analysis into a debate that is all too often
driven by emotion and misinformation.


Weaver, John C., “Crimes, Constables, and Courts: Order and Transgression in a Canadian City, 1816-1970,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 13, 2024,