Well, I was a little cryptic the other week, but tomorrow it all goes public (and we kind of expect it to crash at some point – I’ll be almost disappointed if it doesn’t…),* and today there is a pretty nice feature in the Observer.
[Monday update… creak… groan… thud… Sorry, folks. It should get back to normal in a day or two…]
So here it is: the Proceedings of the Old Bailey Online 1674-1834 is now the Proceedings of the Old Bailey and Central Criminal Court 1674-1913.
This doesn’t only mean that you can now search for 200,000 trials held at the Old Bailey over a period of 2 and a half centuries. The other new set of goodies is the full text of (almost) every Ordinary of Newgate’s Account between 1690 and 1772 (in the next few months this should expand to a full archive of every known surviving Account from c.1674 onwards).
I’ve written here before about these grimly fascinating pamphlets. They’ve been used by a number of historians, including Andrea Mackenzie and Peter Linebaugh, but the surviving pamphlets have been scattered across a number of different libraries and archives. From now on they’ll be together in one fully searchable digital archive. Plus, I’m in the process of completing a database that links every convict mentioned in the Accounts to their trial, providing it has a surviving report (perhaps 3/4 of the links have already been made).
This should make for some interesting research possibilities. For example, historians often argue that women who successfully ‘pleaded their bellies’, ie had their death sentence postponed on grounds of being pregnant, usually escaped hanging. In fact, we say that in our own background section. But I’m not so sure. Through the process of cross-referencing trials and Ordinary’s Accounts, I’ve already discovered several women whose sentences were respited for pregnancy but subsequently carried out (eg in September 1695. So what I’ll be asking (once I’ve finished making the damned links) is: how many were executed and how many were permanently reprieved? Have we historians been getting it wrong? Answering those questions wasn’t impossible before now, but it would have been extremely difficult. And there will, no doubt, be many more possibilities like this.
The other news, because I haven’t been plugging it enough and you’ve probably all forgotten, is that we’re holding a conference in July to celebrate the relaunch: The Metropolis on Trial, in the throbbing metropolis of… Milton Keynes. If you’d like to attend, registration is open and you can download a booking form at the website. If you want to book the accommodation we’ve arranged at discount rates, you need to send the form in by the end of May at the latest and preferably as soon as possible. There is a 2 person room sharing option which is really good value (if you’re skint and looking for someone to share with maybe we can put people in touch here – leave a note in comments).
(Note that old links will continue to work for a few months, and we may well set up proper redirection at some point.)
Old Bailey Files at The Head Heeb.
*Already this morning some searches have been very slow, which is not a good sign.