Inventing the Police: The History of Policing in Nineteenth-Century Chicago | Newberry

Inventing the Police: The History of Policing in Nineteenth-Century Chicago

Led by Rachel Boyle, PhD
Tuesday, June 15, 2021
Four sessions, Tuesdays, June 15 - July 6

6 - 7:30pm (Central Time)


Newberry Adult Education Seminars will meet virtually via Zoom. For more information about the Newberry’s virtual seminars, including a Zoom tutorial, please see our Virtual Seminars FAQ page. If you have questions about online learning, please reach out to

Seminar Description

Did Chicago always have police? This seminar will explore the origins of the city's police force in the nineteenth century. We will examine how local politics shaped early policing while connecting Chicago's story to national trajectories. In addition to interrogating historical conceptions of law and order in an urban context, we will explore how those ideas changed over time and were wielded by different groups vying for power in an industrializing city.

Four sessions. Registration – $170

Rachel Boyle, PhD, is a historian, consultant, and co-founder of Omnia History, a public history collaborative dedicated to using the past to promote social change.

Materials List


  • A selection of shorter materials distributed by the instructor.

First Reading:

  • For the first session, please read the introduction to Sam Mitrani's The Rise of the Chicago Police Department (a digital file of this reading will be sent with the email confirming your registration).

Registration Information

Registration opens at 9 am (CST) on Wednesday, May 19th. Newberry Associates members at the Literati level and above will have access to early registration beginning May 12th at 10am. Learn more about membership benefits and becoming a Newberry Associate.

Please note: For more information about registration, including a guide to online registration, see our Registration Information page. Questions? Please contact seminars program staff via email at

We offer a 10% discount to members, seniors, and students.

This seminar is part of the Newberry’s Adult Education Seminars Program. Learn more about registering for a seminar, program policies, or teaching a seminar.