Greater expectations: intolerance and control of public space anti-social behaviour in the nineteenth and twenty-first centuries

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNChapter


This chapter considers the way in which certain behaviours and activities occurring in public spaces, due to their high visibility and association with deviance or disorderly groups, have been central to discourses surrounding anti-social and unacceptable behaviour and its control. In particular the chapter seeks to compare the increasing intolerance and tighter regulation of public and street activities during the period of rapid urban growth witnessed in the UK during the mid 19th century with the more recent attempts of the New Labour government to curb the nebulous problem of ‘anti-social behaviour' which it identified. Both eras were typified by a desire to clear public spaces of signs and symbols of disorder. However, whilst the earlier period saw concern focused on street trading, traditional leisure pursuits considered inappropriate in a ‘modern' urban setting and vagrancy, the chapter argues that the privileged targets of the turn of the 21st century were predominantly young people. Moreover, this newer discourse of anti-social behaviour tended to problematise the use of public spaces by certain groups as much - if not more - than the activities in which they were engaged: mere presence emerging as a legitimate cause for concern and intervention. In discussing this comparative history, the chapter seeks to critically explore changes in the construction of the ‘anti-social' and the powers which it has been considered appropriate for the state to deploy in order to protect public spaces from those who may abuse it through disorderly acts.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAnti-social behaviour in Britain: Victorian and contemporary perspectives
EditorsS. Pickard
Place of PublicationBasingstoke
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages12
ISBN (Print)9781137399304
Publication statusPublished - 20 Oct 2014

Bibliographical note

Published in Pickard, S. (ed), 2014, Anti-Social Behaviour in Britain: Victorian and contemporary perspectives, Palgrave Macmillan reproduced with permission of Palgrave Macmillan. This extract is taken from the author’s original manuscript and has not been edited. The definitive, published, version of record is available here and


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