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Findthee swing

Captain Findthee Swing

Captain Findthee Swing ("please smirk now if you find it amusing") is the corrupt captain of the Cable Street Particulars, a unit of undercover police officers in the novel Night Watch. He had been trained at the Assassins' School, joining the City Watch. He soon came to the attention of Lord Winder who was ruler of Ankh-Morpork at the time and was made head of the Unmentionables. Winder found him to be a useful tool, because nobody could sniff out conspiracies like he could. and had the wrong kind of brain to be a copper according to Vimes. As Vimes said, "to make it above sergeant you needed a grab-bag of guile, cunning and street wisdom that could pass for 'intelligence' in a poor light". Swing is described as the kind of man who was "capable of devising in the name of reason, the kind of atrocities that unreason could only dream of." He was famous for his ability to gauge a person's innocence or guiltiness and personality by taking accurate measurements of their head and body - craniology. As Pratchett says in the novel, "Bad coppers had always had their ways of finding out if someone was guilty. Back in the old days - hah, now - they included thumbscrews, hammers, small pointed bits of wood, and, of course, the common desk drawer, always a boon to the copper in a hurry. Swing didn't need any of this. He could tell if you were guilty by looking at your eyebrows."

Swing was responsible for the Weapons Law which reduced the number of weapons on the street and left the remainder in the hands of the criminals. This and his approach to applying the laws successfully turns honest men into criminals. Swing helped incite many riots on and around the Glorious 25th of May by sending his "Particulars" to incite violence against the city's police and militia. While Vimes believes that the riots would have happened with or without Swing, he was the tip of the boil on the seething lake of pus created by Lord Winder.

His study of people using craniology is described as follows: "He measured people. He used calipers and a steel ruler. And he quietly wrote down the measurements, and did some sums, such as dividing the length of the nose by the circumference of the head and multiplying it by the width of the space between the eyes. And from such figures he could, infallibly, tell that you were devious, untrustworthy, and congenitally criminal. After you spent the next twenty minutes in the company of his staff and their less sophisticated tools, he would, amazingly, be proven right." When Swing measures Vimes's head he determines that Vimes has the 'eye of a mass murderer'.

He dies very satisfactorily during the revised events of Night Watch, when Sergeant-At-Arms John Keel (impersonated by Sam Vimes) and he have a set-to, Swing with his swordstick and Keel with one of Swing's own steel rulers for measuring people up. Keel manages to hit him in the throat and clearly breaks his larynx, which is invariably fatal. Shame, but it gives him the once-in-the-lifetime, ahem, -afterlifetime chance to try his craniometrics on Death.


The name "Captain Swing" was derived from Captain Swing, the fictitious name often signed to the threatening letters sent to farmers, magistrates, parsons and others during the Swing Riots of 1830. He was regarded as the mythical figurehead of the movement. ('Swing' was apparently a reference to the swinging stick of the flail used in hand threshing.) The Swing letters were first mentioned by The Times newspaper on 21 October 1830.

On Roundworld, craniometrics or phrenology was a pseudoscience that tried to link personality and character to head shape developed by German physician Franz Joseph Gall in 1796 and popularized in the Victorian era by Europeans wishing to justify their racism toward their subjects in their various colonies. Scientists used it not only to hunt for criminal types in the human population, but also to "prove" a correlation between physiognomy and intelligence. This led directly to eugenics and justifications for segregation. Craniometrics was extensively used by the Nazis to provide theoretical plausibility for their ideas. A whole department of Heinrich Himmler's SS - the Racial Purity Bureau - was given over to taking the facial measurements by which the world was divided into Aryans and varying degrees of untermenschen. In Poland and other occupied countries, if a child's facial measurements "proved" that it really belonged to the Aryan race, then that child could be removed from its unworthy Slavonic parents to be brought up by a German family. Conversely, in cases of doubt as to parentage or race, an unfavourable set of craniometrics was a ticket to a death camp.

Prinz-Albrecht Strasse in Berlin, where the Gestapo had its headquarters, is an unremarkable airy suburban street with the usual genteel Berliner mix of shops and offices downstairs, flats and apartments on upper floors. Number 54 is as unremarkable as any other address on the street - at least today... No doubt Cable Street, whose other notable premises are Gimlet's dwarf delicatessen, a betting shop, and the upstairs Temple of Anoia, would have looked just as unremarkably suburban.

Tom Sharpe's two novels set in apartheid South Africa, Riotous Assembly and Indecent Exposure centre around the grossly incompetent and disorganised Piemburg Police Force. One of the memorable characters is the deranged secret policeman Luitenant Verkramp, one of whose duties is enforcing the apartheid laws. Verkramp agonises about precise differences between black and white people and spends time with a predatory German psychiatrist devising all sorts of tests and measurements to ascertain, among other things, the degree of racial contamination present in otherwise white people whose ancestry might conceal an embarrassing inter-racial slip or two... In general, the South African Police Force as portrayed by Sharpe has strong parallels to the Unmentionables in Night Watch but there are enough real Roundworld examples of this kind of police force that Pratchett could have been modeling his on any one of them.