This is kind of a companion question to this one (How to reconcile a feudal system with a congressional/parliamentary democracy...?), so if you are looking for some extra context, you can read this question first.

I realize the anachronistic nature of this concept, but that's kind of the idea. I am just mostly interested in seeing how to combine conventions and workings of modern law enforcement, within reason, with a medieval/Middle Ages setting and the challenges that presents.

I know, for example, that knights were supposed to hold the peace over land that they were assigned, and that in some countries this was such a task for a single person (or a small group of people) that the ancient precursors of our idea of "police" were basically armed volunteers, groups that were supposed to eventually go away and never did. And in other parts of Europe, local lords appointed people under a constable to handle the law for them, etc. It's traditions like that which I want combined with present-day police forces, insomuch that that is possible.

If I need to refine the topic, let me know.

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    $\begingroup$ This is not anacronistic at all. Medieval China and Japan had proper police forces. If you think about it ancient Rome had something close to it too. Policemen were just called 'guards' back then. $\endgroup$ – Renan Jul 7 '16 at 3:52

The primary anachronism is that a modern police force is essentially a state controlled bureaucracy and essentially part of the State apparatus to monopolize and control the use of force.

Polities in the Middle Ages do not resemble states at all, and the Feudal system essentially breaks things down into personal holdings which (as you correctly point out) were the responsibility of a single individual to manage and maintain. At the lowest level, a Knight could police his own domain, or have a constable to do it for him, but their reach is only to the border of the domain. Once a criminal manages to escape the feudatory's domain, then they are essentially home free.

Indeed this situation is similar to the extreme Libertarian position of "competitive police forces"; why will force A cooperate with force B, and what happens when I don't recognize the authority of your police force?

The other issue is what happens once the "police" catch a criminal. While there was a justice system of sorts in the Middle Ages. it was neither standardized or universal. What might merit a flogging in one jurisdiction might be punishable by death in another. In a civil case, the "police" might not even be needed; the quarrelling parties are brought to the local lord who either adjudicates on his own, or maybe pits the two in a trial by combat.

Until the development (or recreation if you will) of a centralized state by the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, the conditions needed for a modern police force simply did not exist (and indeed it still took Sir Robert Peel to institutionalize the idea of a public police force in 1829).


Feudal systems (where you would expect to find knights and lords) and police forces don't really mix. In general, the more centralized a government is and the more power the local leader wields, the more likely there is to be a police force (or 'guard') making sure that everyone follows their rules.

Of course, strong central governments aren't exactly a new thing - Japan, Rome, even ancient Babylon had them. Instead of basing your social system off of feudal medieval Europe, base it off of one with larger cities, stronger rulers, and better organization. A city guard might use swords (or crossbows) instead of guns and horses instead of cars, but the concept of a loyal guard hired by the city to keep the peace probably hasn't changed much in the past thousand years, so other aspects of the story can follow the same conventions as any modern cop drama if you want it to.


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