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Guns and Violence: The English Experience

4.5 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0674016088
ISBN-10: 0674016084
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

This historical study is a companion to Malcolm's earlier book, To Keep and Bear Arms: The Origins of an Anglo-American Right. While the first book focused on the constitutional and legal aspects of gun control, this new work takes a much closer look at the role of the gun in British society, from the Middle Ages to the present. Despite Britain's long history of strict gun laws, Malcolm cites statistical evidence of increased violence in England and assesses the "deterrent impact" of an armed public. She makes useful comparisons with the United States (where, despite millions of privately owned firearms, violent crime continues to decline) and feels that the British people are just embarking upon the kind of gun control debate that we have had in this country for the past 30 years. This book will stimulate renewed discussion and examination of guns in society and will be more accessible for general readers than Peter Squires's recent Gun Culture or Gun Control?: Firearms, Violence and Society. Malcolm's book is highly recommended for academic and large public libraries. Thomas A. Karel, Franklin & Marshall Coll. Lib., Lancaster, PA
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


This is an intellectually challenging book which addresses a very important subject. I believe it will be widely read and much debated. Its arguments will be controversial, but the book appears to establish that the case for gun control has yet to be made, and there is a significant and respectable case against gun control. (David Wootton, Queen Mary, University of London)

This book will stimulate renewed discussion and examination of guns in society...Malcolm's book is highly recommended. (Thomas A. Karel Library Journal 2002-04-15)

In recent decades, much scholarship has been devoted to the history of crime and violence in England from the Middle Ages to the present. Joyce Lee Malcolm's lucid volume is a welcome synthesis of such work and the related factor of gunholding. (Richard M. Brown Washington Times 2002-07-21)

Joyce Lee Malcolm brings new evidence that guns reduce violence. Professor Malcolm's carefully researched book is a study of guns and violence in England from the Middle Ages through the present day. When the English were armed to the teeth, violent crime was rare. Now that the English are disarmed, violent crime has exploded. Indeed, crime in England is out of control. (Paul Craig Roberts Washington Times 2002-07-30)

In addition to presenting the big picture with plenty of detail, Ms. Malcolm describes some of the more difficult aspects of this whole debate--changing definitions of crime, unreported crimes, wavering enthusiasm for strict law enforcement. Altogether she makes a forceful case, clearly and fairly. Even the most hardened anti-gunners...will want to read Guns and Violence, if only to see what ammunition their opponents now possess. (Kimberley A. Strassel Wall Street Journal 2002-08-06)

It is refreshing to see a study of the complex issues surrounding firearms in the UK played with a straight bat...[Malcolm's] book...breaks new ground in the debate...[and] tackles many of the myths surround the effectiveness of firearms controls in England...Well written and very readable. It also provides ammunition to counter the arguments of those who want to see Britain turned into a gun-free zone. It is also heartening to see a respected academic make a contribution to the firearms debate which is well researched, objective and based on intellectually sustainable conclusions. (Bill Harriman Shooting Times & Country Magazine 2002-11-21)

Surprisingly, it has taken an American Professor of History to produce a book that looks at the subject from its origins and takes us forward to the present day. The quality and nature of the research is astonishing. Professor Malcolm takes us back to the Middle Ages to study the state of crime when firearms were not widely available. Looking to a vast array of records that have survived, she is able to create the best possible picture of the state of crime...This book convincingly disposes of so many myths about English firearms controls that it will have to be read twice by the doubters amongst remaining gun owners in this country. (Colin Greenwood Target Sports 2002-11-01)

The scholar concerned with the comprehensive study of the right to bear arms, the extent of gun ownership, and gun control and its impact on violent crime in a society must certainly read Guns and Violence: The English Experience...Malcolm has written a fine book on which English gun owners would be able to mount a legitimate challenge to England's reaction to the government-defined gun "problem." As for her academic readers, Malcolm has delivered to us a fine historical and contemporary account of England's relationship to guns and whether violence does indeed accompany gun ownership. (Darrell D. Irwin International Criminal Justice Review)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (October 25, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674016084
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674016088
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.9 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #299,859 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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Americans I know tend to think of Britain as a peaceful, crimefree place. My British friends tend to think of America as a crime-ridden Hell. Statistical data published in the last couple of years, amusingly, reveals that they're both one hundred eighty degrees wrong. This book explores what happened on the British side of the pond.
Historically, of course, Britain has had low crime rates. One aspect of the story that Malcolm traces is the evolution of gun ownership (stimulated by invention and ever cheaper gun prices and restricted, over the course of the 20th century, by ever harsher government regulation)and the relationship of gun ownership to crime. The skinny is this: Britain had low crime rates as long as it had high levels of private gun ownership. As the state has made private ownership illegal, crime has skyrocketed.
Another strand Malcolm illuminates is the changing nature of British law enforcement. Britain only acquired policemen in the modern sense in the middle of the nineteenth century, under the leadership of Sir Robert Peel (hence the nickname "Bobbies"). Prior to that time, the general public was expected to -- and did -- assist in the apprehension of lawbreakers. The general public was, of course, armed to the teeth. And (see above) Britain had low crime rates.
But since the introduction of professional police, the British government has increasingly tried to grant itself a complete monopoly on the use of force. Not only has it progressively made private gun ownership illegal (no one here can own pistols anymore, and it's pretty difficult to get a permit to own a rifle, even for sport), it has also eroded, almost into nonexistence, the traditional British right to self-defense.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For anyone who is interested in the subject of gun control I heartily recommend "Guns and Violence: The English Experience" by Joyce Lee Malcolm. It is a scholarly and, to my American ears, dispassionate and comprehensive examination of the history and effects of English gun control efforts throughout the the centuries. In so doing, the authoress is not afraid to puncture many myths.

English police historically didn't need to carry guns because England was so peaceful? Well, not exactly... Actually, the reason English police were originally unarmed was because the idea of the government having a civilian police force at all was, literally, a revolutionary idea. There was, at that time, a real fear that the people would rise up in armed rebellion at the very thought of the government having a uniformed force that could be used against them. It was to relieve these fears that the police were expressly forbidden to carry firearms. But everybody else had guns! Don't believe me? Read Sherlock Holmes. The bad guys had guns. Dr. Watson had his old (privately purchased) service revolver. Holmes, who had no official standing whatsoever, had a revolver. The only ones who didn't have guns were the Metropolitan Police (although Inspector Lestrade was often known to illegally carry a pistol).

England is remarkably free of violent crime? It was indeed . . . at the end of the Nineteenth century! However, at that time, guns were widely available and commonly carried by the population at large. So much so that, when a gang committed the unheard of crime of armed robbery in London, the unarmed Police were able to borrow four pistols from passersby in order to give chase to the bandits.
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Format: Hardcover
As some one who has lived in NYC for 12 years, and just returned from a year in England, I was astonished by how much more violent crime exists in that seemingly placid country. As Professor Joyce Malcom describes, robbery, burglary, assault and motor vehical theft in England have risen far higer (per 1000 population) than in the United States since the mid 1990s. This in spite of the fact that to minimize this shocking increase in violent crime, the British government has re-ordered the way crime statistics are collected. Car thefts are no longer investigated by Police; you call them to report a theft; they give you a report number for the insurance company. (A man called the police to report he was witnessing his car being stolen, and if they hurried over, they could catch the theft. They were "too busy.")
What is most fascinating about Prof. Malcolm's book is what you can read between the lines. The wilful blindness of anti-gun people has become so overwhelming, that it induces the most bizarre behavior in these otherwise intelligent people. As she amply demonstrates, it is just not possible to find ANY statistics put out by the anti-gunners that are not flawed, misleading, or just plain false. This strange belief has become an unquestioned religion to many, and opposition is not simply a different opinion, it is heresey. Malcom relates how in 1966 a gun shot 3 policemen with a handgun, causing the British Home Secretary Jenkins slap on the public a new ban on shotguns!! (Handguns were already illeagal.)
The book is rather long detailing the history of gun use in Great Britain, but the second half paints a surprising picture of the rapid decline of public safety in almost perfect sync with a draconian reversal of previously liberal gun laws.
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