Security Technologies and the Security Industry in Modern Britain

This project explores the historical development of security technologies and the security industry in Britain since the late eighteenth century. Through detailed research on selected security technologies – including locks, safes, safe deposits and alarms – it aims to demonstrate that the commodification of security provision is not a recent phenomenon, but instead deeply rooted in modern society.

Working from the archives of major security firms, the project’s core analysis centres on the evolution of modern security enterprise, covering the design, marketing, consumption and use of security products, and the construction of trusted security brand identities. In addition, it will address a number of themes related to commercial security provision, illustrating its impact historically on perceptions of criminality, notions of risk and responsibility, the evolution of criminal techniques and the development of urban space. In these ways, the project will contribute a much-needed, empirically-rich historical perspective to debates about the changing landscape of security in recent decades.

Project Publications

‘Spectacles of Security: Lock-Picking Competitions and the Emergence of the British Security Industry in the Mid-Nineteenth Century’, History Workshop Journal, forthcoming, 2015