I don't need historical accuracy, though it is still useful to know. I'm not even sure what time frame I picture this fantasy world in yet (maybe between 1600 and 1800). It is simplistic in structure, has a king, etc., but it needs modern law so that the poor people of this world hardly have freedom.

I've researched a bit of medieval law enforcement and it didn't seem very organized.

Maybe I need to search more after 1600.

Also, I'm not sure how to incorporate the ranks of police officials into this world. Terms I find seem too modern. I'm looking into army ranks too, but I doubt the army would impose law enforcement within the country.

These peacekeeper people are under the king too, so it's not a modern government. Basically I'm looking to create an old-fashioned monarchy with modern law enforcement. It still needs to be brutal though.

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    $\begingroup$ Can you clarify what you mean by this: "but it needs modern law so that the poor people of this world hardly have freedom."? Because I assumed, until that line, that you were looking for something like the impacts of modern police work on a fantasy society (like evidence, procedures, etc). But it sounds more like you're looking for something different. $\endgroup$ Commented May 27, 2015 at 1:21
  • $\begingroup$ What aspects of your police force to you want to be "modern"? Evidence? Procedures/investigations? Suspects' rights? Body armor? And what do you want your police force to be doing? You mention brutality and preventing freedoms, neither of which are things modern police forces do. $\endgroup$
    – evankh
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 2:11
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure what you're asking. For one, how do you define "modern"? Are we talking structure, technology, legal system? You mention freedom, so I'm leaning the last; but I think that has less to do with law enforcement and more to do with political systems. Second, what sort of framing are you asking in? "How such a system could be created?" "How would it look?" "Why it would exist?" $\endgroup$
    – user5083
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 2:51
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    $\begingroup$ "I doubt the army would impose law enforcement within the country." -> why not? In particular, if the "police work" is limited to providing physical security for the social elite and maintaining social order by brutalising anyone who doesn't like that, what do you need that an army can't do for you? Sounds like the rest of what police do wouldn't be a priority. $\endgroup$ Commented May 27, 2015 at 4:46
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    $\begingroup$ @knave 'neither of which are things modern police forces do' - depends on where your from and who you are. Plenty of police forces globally are used by those in power to oppress those without. Police enforce laws, so if your laws are oppressive, so are the police. If your laws ensure freedom and equality, then so do the police. Of course police are only human and their own prejudice is a factor as well when they choose to apply the law. $\endgroup$ Commented May 27, 2015 at 12:26

5 Answers 5


Based on your write up, these are my assumptions: You have a feudal nation controlled by a king, the king employees an army and a police force separately, the army to fight wars, the police to enforce the kings laws. The laws are oppressive and the police are given authority to ensure oppression with the mantle of 'upholding the law'. And you want these police to act with professional behavior. Given these elements, I would think the following would suit your goals:

  • The king decrees the laws and assigns regional judges to decide cases of law on his behalf, separate from local nobles, providing him with more authority by striping matters of law from the nobles purview.

  • The king creates a force of police (Sheriffs/Guards/Justicars/what ever you decide to call them) with the explicit mandate to up hold his laws. They would be provided with arms and armor to 'defend themselves and the lawful', as well as make assaulting the oppressed easier.

  • The police wear a badge with the king's seal as a symbol of their authority. Assaulting an officer wearing the kings badge is the same as assaulting the king.

  • The king organizes the police and judges and secretly ensures that false charges and evidence are crafted and made public to support the 'justice' sentenced by the judges and the brutality used by the police.

In the end, if all you want is an oppressive king, you don't really need anything modern, there is plenty of historical basis. If what you are trying to create is a oppression with a thin sense of legitimacy provide by 'good intentioned' laws and those 'just doing their job', this system seems to fit that, though you will have to polish the rough edges.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you. You've perfectly narrowed down what I needed (despite how vague my answer was), and given me a foundation on how to build my world's laws. I will try this approach. $\endgroup$
    – kay12lou
    Commented Jun 6, 2015 at 14:00
  • $\begingroup$ Don't forget about religion, it was common those days to execute people based in religion, and religion is a powerful way of control, you could just make sure that will exist evidence that all executed people were "witches" and with the help of the church you could even make it look that all those "witches" is god saying something to make anything you want e.g make them work harder, or think that all the rebels are demons trying to corrupt your government etc... $\endgroup$
    – Freedo
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 2:37

I'll try to explain why the medieval societies had relatively poor law enforcement and hope that this helps you tweak your setting to avoid the reasons, at least locally in a single city.

Basically, professional dedicated law enforcement requires the professional can serve enough people who need his service and can pay (usually indirectly) his wages. The middle ages had relatively low population density, crappy transportation system, and huge wealth inequality that guaranteed most people could not really pay for anything.

As such it was necessary for most law enforcement to be done by people who had other sources of income. Gradually this evolved into a system where people could become bit more professional by getting their money directly in form of fines, other payments and outright bribes. And finally governments became rich enough to start paying wages.

The good news that this is about economics not about some obscure level of technology issue. So there is no reason why a rich mercantile city with high enough population could not have professional law enforcement. I think London actually was one of the first cities to go pro. Only real technology requirement is transportation, the watchmen must be able to reach all parts of their jurisdiction in reasonable time. But many ancient cities were properly planned grid plans, roads, and even water and waste management. So there is no real reason your city can't have roads good enough.

Social inequality is a harder issue. In most medieval societies there would be no real incentive to provide professional law enforcement to the poor. And not enough rich to need any. So you need to give the government some reason to protect the poor that justifies the cost. Historically this happened with industrialization, but that does not fit your scenario.

You already need the city to be a commercial center to have the money to justify professionals. You can upgrade that by making the city the center of craftsmen. The kingdom might have deliberately concentrated craftsmen into the capital, many ancient civilizations actually did relocate the artisans of the conquered to build monuments for themselves. Your kingdom might use this system and the crafts guilds of the capital might have a monopoly in making some goods. This would create a concentration of trained professionals worth protecting. And in need of being watched for republican tendencies.

The city could be a religious center. King David IIRC concentrated almost all worship to Jerusalem to increase his control of the tribes of Israel. Teotihuacan was a huge religious center with approximately correct level of technology. Your kingdom might have concentrated religion in a similar way and made the capital the place of pilgrimage everyone wants to visit. This would create a large transient population that needs professionals to control and brings in enough money to be worth it since people would save money for years to make the trip and buy relics and talismans and such.

The city could also be a center of education. Institutions like the Museion of Alexandria or the University of Paris had huge effects on their cities and brought in people from wide and far beyond the borders of the kingdom. All those foreigners need to be watched and since education is not free, they'd also be worth hiring people for the purpose.

Even if the kingdom does not have a standing professional army it probably has a standing navy to protect all the commerce and pilgrims. And if commerce and pilgrimage is concentrated on the capital, the navy would probably be based right there. Both off duty soldiers and ambitious admirals need someone to watch them and the expense is essentially an extra cost on having a navy.

The city would also be the center of royal bureaucracy and the royal court. Given the level of concentration I have already suggested I think we can assume much of the nobility will be forced to live in the city much of the time. They and their huge mass of servants will need to be protected while in the Kings city. And the King would prefer that to be mostly done by people people he pays and controls, not by the personal armsmen of the nobility. The expense would be part of the cost of not having the nobles rebel constantly and not an issue.

By assuming all that I think you could assume a single "golden city" with professional law enforcement, good roads, lots of money, where everybody who is worth something can be found. The rest of the kingdom? Would be handled as part time work by representatives of city councils and local nobility. But having a core of professional law enforcement in the capital would enable the king to send professionals to investigate anything worth the attention.

Note that if you concentrate all the power in the capital then the force guarding it has lots of power if corrupt. Think Praetorian Guard. The Praetorian Guard is also a good example of the evolution of such a professional force from the personal guard of the king. Just tweak the evolutionary path somewhere around where they start assassinating emperors. Later emperors had a closer personal guard hired from foreigners, presumably capable of protecting them from the larger guard force to some degree. So give your king a separate force of bodyguards that watches the watchers and is watched right back also... There should be lots of rivalry and suspicion in that relationship.


Professional law enforcement (professional according to 21st or 20th century standards) would greatly enhance the freedom of the rural lower classes. Their landlord and employer is no longer also the judge. A bureaucracy is strictly opposed to arbitrary rulings by some random noble.

Giving army ranks to the police sounds perfectly reasonable. In many places today you have sergeants, lieutenants, captains in the police. Many law enforcement agencies are paramilitary or military even in modern, democratic nations.

For your setting, imagine a king who is determined to take both high and low justice away from the nobility. He needs agents to enforce the laws -- shire reeves or sheriffs. Think of the Sheriff of Nottingham from the Robin Hood legends. Where do these cops come from? Perhaps some are scribes, but in a largely illiterate society few crimes will be solved by reading documents. Calling on soldiers makes sense.


You could have "peacekeepers," who members of this society would report crimes to. If found guilty by the system the criminal would be punished, and the member(s) of society who reported the crime would be rewarded.


Most law enforcement in fantasy worlds are city guards that protects the gates of the walls, and a few patrols runs the cities.

The laws of the crime is often ruled by the mayor or earl.

Guards are often equipped with cheap shield and spears because of the ease of production and low cost. Sometimes even equipped with leather or chain armor.


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