02.07.

1850: Why are London police officers called ‘Bobbies’? 

1850: Why are London police officers called ‘Bobbies’? 
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons/Group portrait of policemen, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, England, c. 1900

Story Highlights

  • Historical event
  • 2 July 1850
  • Bobbies were nicknamed after Sir Robert Peel, Home Secretary who introduced a new police system in Britain in the late 1820s, which employed fully professional officers (Bob/Bobby is a traditional English nickname for people named Robert).

On this day died the famous British politician Sir Robert Peel, after whom British police officers got their nickname (“Bobbies“). 

Namely, Sir Robert, as Home Secretary, introduced a new police system in Britain in the late 1820s, which employed fully professional officers. 

In earlier times the preservation of law and order and the fight against crime was left to semi-professionals and often private individuals (the so-called “thief-takers”).

The new police service which was introduced during Sir Robert Peel later became a role model for other countries.

 In England, the new officers were affectionately called “Bobbies”, after Sir Robert Peel (Bob/Bobby is a traditional English nickname for people named Robert). In Northern Ireland, they were called “Peelers”, after his last name.

Later, Sir Robert Peel even became British Prime Minister, and on two occasions. In the second term, he was the prime minister of Queen Victoria, at the time of her early youth (she was still in her twenties). Peel was a member of the Conservative Party (the “Tories”) and worked with the famous Duke of Wellington (victor over Napoleon at Waterloo). 

At the end of the second Peel’s mandate the Great Famine, caused by a potato disease, occurred in Ireland. It was a disaster often blamed on the British landlords (some consider it an act of genocide against the Irish people).

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