I have mentioned this before, but now Jonathan at Head Heeb has made it official. ‘Symposia’ – when a group of bloggers gets together to write essays about a pre-specified topic – are becoming a regular feature of academic blogs, but so far they’ve usually focused on books (eg, fiction or non-fiction). I think this will be the first blog symposium for historical research based on primary source material: the Old Bailey Proceedings Online.
The Old Bailey database is, quite simply, the largest primary source collection currently available online, with reports (and often complete transcripts) of more than 100,000 criminal trials from 1674 to 1834. As such, it provides almost unlimited opportunity to use the online medium for original historical work.
This symposium isn’t just for those with an interest in crime or legal issues. Court records are a slice of life, and the Old Bailey papers provide an unparallelled look into the daily life of early modern London. My own online explorations of the Old Bailey records have revealed scenes from the class struggle, glimpses of London’s Jewish and black communities and quack medicine as well as early forensics. The academic conference held on 2004 at the University of Hertfordshire involved an even wider range of topics.
The symposium will probably be held in late January, and “submissions ranging from the scholarly to the entertaining will be welcome”. You don’t need to have a website of your own: Jonathan and I will both lend space if needed. Read the rest of Jonathan’s post, take a look at the OBP (try out a few keyword searches relevant to topics that interest you and see what happens!), and if you think you could take part, get in touch.