Law & Disorder (Hardcover)

The Chaotic Birth of the NYPD

By Bruce Chadwick

Thomas Dunne Books, 9781250082589, 384pp.

Publication Date: April 25, 2017

List Price: 28.99*
* Individual store prices may vary.


Nineteenth-century New York City was one of the most magnificent cities in the world, but also one of the most deadly. Without any real law enforcement for almost 200 years, the city was a lawless place where the crime rate was triple what it is today and the murder rate was five or six times as high. The staggering amount of crime threatened to topple a city that was experiencing meteoric growth and striving to become one of the most spectacular in America.

For the first time, award-winning historian Bruce Chadwick examines how rampant violence led to the founding of the first professional police force in New York City. Chadwick brings readers into the bloody and violent city, where race relations and an influx of immigrants boiled over into riots, street gangs roved through town with abandon, and thousands of bars, prostitutes, and gambling emporiums clogged the streets.

The drive to establish law and order and protect the city involved some of New York’s biggest personalities, including mayor Fernando Wood, police chief Fred Tallmadge, and journalist Walt Whitman.

Law and Disorder is a must read for fans of New York history and those interested in how the first police force, untrained and untested, battled to maintain law and order.

About the Author

BRUCE CHADWICK is the author of more than 25 books, including Law & Order and the Chicago Cubs Trivia Book. A noted historian, Chadwick taught at Rutgers University and New Jersey City University. He covered crime for many years as a reporter for the New York Daily News. He holds a PhD from Rutgers and he lectures on the history of crime and forensics all over the world.

Praise For Law & Disorder: The Chaotic Birth of the NYPD

“Bruce Chadwick has brilliantly presented a Dickensian picture of a corrupt, violent, and lawless antebellum New York City and the efforts to rein it in through the creation of what eventually became the viable and dedicated NYPD. A terrific read.” —Michael Aaron Rockland, professor of American Studies, Rutgers University, and author of The George Washington Bridge: Poetry in Steel

"Bruce Chadwick brings to life the untold story of the violent, chaotic, and colorful birth of one of the world’s most-famous police departments. This book is chock full of incredible characters and events that make it read like a novel, but it’s all true and it’s all based on the author’s deep knowledge of policing, crime, and the real-life battle that took place on the streets of New York a century and a half ago."
--Terry Golway, author of Machine Made: Tammany Halland the Creation of Modern American Politics

"Bruce Chadwick gives us an epic, richly anecdotal history of crime and law enforcement in New York City from the 1830s to the eve of the Civil War. Along the way, he shares a cornucopia of outrageous, violent, hair-raising, and sometimes darkly comic stories of human misbehavior among both criminals and the supposed guardians of law and order as the city tried desperately to become a civilized metropolis--a goal it wouldn't begin to achieve until the late 1800s."
--Mark Caldwell, author of New York Night: The Mystique and Its History

"Chadwick brings New York’s past back to life via infamous crimes and the colorful people who crusaded for the city’s modern police force." —Dan Kaplan, Booklist

"Colorful...Chadwick tells the story of New York in those murderous decades through the prism of how it policed itself, or at least tried. Anyone like me who relishes New York history will enjoy this highlight reel." —New York Times Book Review