Old Bailey update: in the blogosphere


The trickle of new posts appearing in my feeds seems to have pretty much dried up now, so this is probably the final final update of links. (But if you’ve seen anything interesting by bloggers that I’ve missed, leave a comment.)

Blogs (* indicates personal favourites):

*African history in the Old Bailey? (History of Africa)

*Suffragettes and Postboxes (Transpontine)

Lags and legacies (JISC digitisation blog)

Friday hoydens: suffragettes in court (Hoyden About Town)

Old Bailey Online (geoffreyrockwell.com)

What happened at the Old Bailey? (Research Buzz)

Old Bailey records online (Slaw.ca)

Just as well they didn’t have t’internet back then (Banditry)

Tales from the Hanging Court (Metafilter)

Sarah Ellen Procter, Charged with the Murder of Charlotte Whale, 5/28/1888 (True Crime Weblog)

*Old Bailey 1674-1913 (Lawyers, Guns and Money) They like the Ordinary’s Accounts too

New Online Old Bailey (The Corridor) Cricket in the Proceedings

Old Bailey Online (The Cat’s Meat Shop)

*Old Bailey online (Vince Smith) A comparison with the Biodiversity Heritage Library

Light absorbing ovines (Ben’s Blog) People just can’t resist looking for those black sheep in the family…

Old-fashioned trademark infringements (IPblog)

Getting big publicity (Available Online)

*In the Dock (The Bioscope) Early cinemas in the proceedings

with a modest generosity (Catholic World News) When it was high treason to be a Catholic priest

XML in the service of crime (Blockhead Blog)

Not related to the launch – the research was completed using the original version of the site – but of interest anyway: ‘Deaf by God’ tried in Old Bailey records. This reports a recent article in Sign Language Studies on the appearances of deaf interpreters in the 18th-century proceedings. Abstract/Muse access.

And some picks from news sites:

Old Bailey opens its unseen files (Observer)

Rush to search Old Bailey records of criminal trials (Times Online)

Global witness: Grim classics of Old Bailey go on internet (Yorkshire Post)

When hanging was too good for some (BBC magazine)

Booze, betrayal and death: tales from NZ’s past (NZ Herald)

Criminal historians crash London web site archive (Bloomberg)

In praise of… The Old Bailey (Guardian editorial)

London’s Old Bailey criminal court puts archive online (AP)

In the dock, and on the web (The Economist)

The dead shouldn’t have the last word (Independent)

It was all going so well


And then the BBC went and did a piece on their website with the title ‘Great-Granddad was a killer’. Oh, and there was a rave review on Radio 4 at the weekend (on Saturday Review; it’s on Listen Again).*

clunk… grind… thud…

Tuesday update

It turns out that yesterday we got over 3 million hits, and as far as we can tell, nearly all of that was the direct result of just the one BBC piece; nothing else was coming up in Google News (though there was some extra traffic on Sunday after the radio feature). It was genuinely popular, judging by its appearance in ‘top viewed’ and ‘top emailed’ lists on the BBC site.

By way of comparison, last week when we’d hit the publicity machine really hard and got pieces into all sorts of newspapers and media sites, we got a little over 2 million hits on our busiest day.

Last week’s publicity was largely an ‘official’ line: we supplied a press release, a few interesting cases and quotes from people who’d used the site, and journalists used that information to compile mostly pretty generic reports, often focussed on the famous cases – Wilde, Crippen, the Pankhursts. The message: here is a historical website with lots of stuff about notorious criminals and horrible punishments in the past. (Oh, and your ancestors might be mentioned in it.)

Yesterday’s piece was framed very differently. It tapped straight into the huge popularity of family history (which the BBC has done a lot for in recent years, after all): the personal and family angle, the potential for notoriety and scandal, or simply pathos and tragedy, much closer to home. The ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ approach. Publicity gold.

Result for us, unfortunately: website falling over again. But the simple lesson is that just one story that presses the right buttons with readers, that they can respond to personally and emotionally, can do more (for good or bad) than a massive publicity machine churning out stories-by-numbers and formulaic soundbites.


*I’ve finally got around to listening to it. Rave is an understatement. It gave me a nice warm fuzzy glow anyway.

New resources for making digital history


Bill Turkel (who I get to meet in July!), has published The Programming Historian as an open access e-book. (Gavin Robinson, who actually is a programming historian, recommends it.)

And another resource you’ll want to have close at hand if you’re planning any kind of digital history project (large or small) is Jeremy Boggs’ new series on Digital Humanities design and development process:
Part 1: figure out what you’re building
Part 2: information architecture and organization

The important thing I want to highlight about both of these resources is that they’re about making digital history, not just using the resources and tools that someone else already made. A lot of discussion of digital resources focuses on the finished products and what they can do for your research as an end-user (eg, this recent post). But if you can get involved in the creation of digital resources, you have the opportunity to influence what actually gets digitised, to get the resources you want.

Similarly, I’ve been coming to the view that it’s just not enough to champion blogging or writing on wikis, even though these activities are useful and stimulating in their own right (and people who dismiss them as worthless are big fat idiots who need a good slap). What you really need to be doing is learning how blogs/wikis work: how to install and maintain blog or wiki software and then tailor it to fit your own needs – and what it’s possible to do with these tools once you have them. The skills you learn in the process, to use the educationalists’ occasionally useful jargon, are highly transferable.

And there are going to be real job opportunities for those who take the initiative now and acquire the practical skills and understanding of what creating digital history needs. The generation of historians (and humanities academics more generally) in charge of hiring mostly doesn’t care about (or for) blogging. Wikipedia brings it out in a collective rash. But it’s well aware that there is quite a lot of grant money becoming available for digital history/humanities. And that’s something it does care about.

The technical skills needed aren’t taught in more than a handful of history departments (I don’t know of any in the UK): students and junior academics who want to exploit these new opportunities are largely going to have to teach themselves, with the help of resources like The Programming Historian. Get in ahead of the crowd now. Your career might depend on it.

Recently noted around the web


What I’ve been reading online lately…

Charles Tilly, May 20, 1929 – April 29, 2008
  personal memories of Charles Tilly

Old Bailey opens its unseen files
  nice feature on the project in The Observer

Observer Food Monthly April 2008
  a special anniversary edtion: loadsa Nigel Slater recipes

the moment cat lost…

Hitler diaries scandal: ‘We’d printed the scoop of the century, then it turned to dust’
  on the 25th anniversary of the Hitler Diaries, the inside story

The Pirate Problem
  dan cohen on historians' reactions to digital history

Law and Disorder in Early Modern Wales


I haz a shiny book!

book cover

Publisher’s catalogue. (Amazon UK; Amazon US)

There’s summat curious going on here – the publisher’s told me that the price is £45 (which is probably what I’d expect – the Amazon UK price is £46.99), but their online catalogue says £35. So if you want a cheap copy, you’d better jump in there and order it quickly before they notice. Just sayin’.

It feels so good to have it out. I NEVER EVER have to touch this thing again!