Old Bailey Proceedings Online

Summary:

The proceedings of the Old Bailey from 1674 to 1834 detail some 100,000 individual trials. The scope of the project has since been extended to 1913.

Project Status:

Completed

Funders:

Arts and Humanities Research Board (AHRB), New Opportunities Fund

Partners:

University of Sheffield
University of Hertfordshire

Subjects:

British Isles, digital archive, historical records, history, large datasets, online resource, social history

Technologies:

API, CSS, HTML, Java, Lucene, MySQL, Natural Language Processing, XML, XSLT

HRI Online Publication

Project Description

Between 1674 and 1834 the proceedings of the central criminal court in London, the Old Bailey, were published eight times a year. These records detail some 100,000 individual trials, and include approximately 60,000 pages of text. They represent the largest single source of information about non-elite lives and behaviour ever published, and provide a wealth of detail about everyday life, as well as valuable evidence of the circumstances surrounding crimes, the lives of the accused, and their trials. This project created a fully digitised and structured version of all surviving published trial accounts between 1674 and 1834, and made them available as a searchable online resource.

Users are able to search for entries in specific fields, such as crime, or defendant’s occupation, or search the whole text for any text string. It is also possible to tabulate specific fields, such as sex of defendant by type of crime. Beyond this, information on related documents and sources found in the libraries and archives of London is linked to each trial, creating a trail of information that leads users from the internet to the original manuscript sources for eighteenth-century crime. For one ten year period, digitised versions of the Ordinary’s Accounts and manuscript sessions papers have been included in the site and linked to the relevant trials. Trials have also been linked to three digitised eighteenth and nineteenth-century maps, allowing users to examine the spatial distribution of criminal prosecutions. A series of learning packages have been designed to make the material accessible to students in schools and universities, researchers of family and local history, and users interested in the histories of individual communities, such as the Black, Gay, Irish and Traveller communities (all of which are frequently referred to in the Proceedings). Links to a wide range of other internet sources for all types of users have also been incorporated.

The digitisation involved the scanning and double rekeying of the original text. This was performed via the Higher Education Digitisation Service at the University of Hertfordshire. The files thus created were then transferred to the Humanities Research Institute in Sheffield, where they were marked-up, incorporating both structured meta-data detailing specific aspects of each trial and archival references. The website, hosted at the University of Sheffield, was launched in March 2003 and completed in July 2005.

Related Projects

Project Team

  • Prof. Robert Shoemaker (Department of History, University of Sheffield)
  • Prof. Tim Hitchcock (Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities Research Institute, University of Hertfordshire)
  • Dr Louise Henson (Project Manager, former)
  • Dr Sharon Howard (Project Manager – University of Sheffield)
  • Jamie McLaughlin (Digital Humanities Developer – University of Sheffield)