The period 1750–1900 witnessed a marked increase in the number of professionals employed in England and Wales to combat crime. The line taken by an old school of police historians, leaning heavily on the arguments of early nineteenth-century police reformers, was that the old system of police was inadequate and ineffective. Recognition of this situation, the story went, led Sir Robert Peel, as Home Secretary, to establish the Metropolitan Police in London in 1829. The Municipal Corporations Act 1835 spread the new system of police into provincial boroughs. The Rural Constabulary Act 1839 enabled counties, or parts of counties, to establish similar, effective police forces. The County and Borough Police Act 1856 capped this legislation making the new police obligatory for all local authorities. This was a Whig interpretation. It was rooted in the idea of progress and looked back from an idealised contemporary model assuming that this was the model which far-sighted reformers and politicians of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries had in mind. The first serious academic critics of the Whig view emphasised how the duties of the new police were in keeping with the control requirements of a new capitalist society. More recent research has drawn attention to developments during the eighteenth century and to continuities between the old police and the new. 1