Digital Panopticon


This project will bring together genealogical, biometric and criminal justice datasets held in the UK and Australia in order to explore the impact of the different types of penal punishments on the lives of 66,000 people sentenced at The Old Bailey between 1780 and 1925.

Project Status:

In Progress


Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)


University of Sheffield
The National Archives
University of Liverpool
University of Oxford
University of Sussex
University of Tasmania


data visualisation, early modern period, historical records, history, large datasets, linked data, online resource, social history, text data mining


API, CSS, GIS, GoogleMaps API, HTML, HTML5 Canvas, Java, Lucene, MySQL, Natural Language Processing, XML

Image Credits: Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums

Project Blog

Project Description

This project will use data mapping and life-course analysis to investigate a central issue of penology and social policy: the relative impacts of different types of punishment on criminal
desistance, health outcomes, employment opportunities, and family life over the long term. Using sophisticated data-linking methodologies and data visualisation techniques developed by the HRI, it will join together existing and widely used large datasets (Old Bailey Online, London Lives, and Founders and Survivors) with newly digitised data to make it possible to chart the fortunes of all Londoners convicted at the Old Bailey between the departure of the First Fleet to Australia (1787) through to the death of the last transported Londoner in Australia in the early 1920s.

Prisoners kept in London’s burgeoning prison estate will be identified and followed in newly available digitized prison records, as well as civil datasets. Convicts sentenced to transportation will be traced through the richly detailed convict records in Australia, as well as in London prison registers and birth, marriage and death records. The project will trace the criminal London poor through a plethora of digital records, recreating a pan-global prism capable of mapping and analyzing their lives at both the collective and individual level.

Duration: 1st October 2013 – 30th September 2017

Project Team

  • Prof. Barry Godfrey (Principal Investigator – University of Liverpool)
  • Prof. Robert Shoemaker (Co-Investigator – University of Sheffield)
  • Dr Deborah Oxley (Co-Investigator – University of Oxford)
  • Prof. Tim Hitchcock (Co-Investigator – University of Sussex)
  • Prof. Hamish Maxwell-Stewart (Co-Investigator – University of Tasmania)
  • Dr Nick Barratt (The National Archives)
  • Dr Lucy Williams (Research Associate – University of Liverpool)
  • Dr Richard Ward (Research Associate – University of Sheffield)
  • Dr Sharon Howard (Project Manager – University of Sheffield)
  • Jamie McLaughlin (Digital Humanities Developer – University of Sheffield)
  • Katherine Rogers (Digital Humanities Developer – University of Sheffield)
  • Michael Pidd (Digital Director – University of Sheffield)