Cite this page

About This Project

The Old Bailey Proceedings Online makes available a fully searchable, digitised collection of all surviving editions of the Old Bailey Proceedings from 1674 to 1913, and of the Ordinary of Newgate's Accounts between 1676 and 1772. It allows access to over 197,000 trials and biographical details of approximately 2,500 men and women executed at Tyburn, free of charge for non-commercial use.

In addition to the text, accessible through both keyword and structured searching, this website provides digital images of all 190,000 original pages of the Proceedings, 4,000 pages of Ordinary's Accounts, advice on methods of searching this resource, information on the historical and legal background to the Old Bailey court and its Proceedings, and descriptions of published and manuscript materials relating to the trials covered. Contemporary maps, and images have also been provided.

This website is published by HRI Online Publications.

For a summary of the changes made to this website in April 2013, see What's New.

Contents of this Page

See also:

Project Staff

  • The directors of this project, and authors of all the historical background pages, are Professor Clive Emsley (Open University), Professor Tim Hitchcock (University of Hertfordshire) and Professor Robert Shoemaker (University of Sheffield).
  • The Project Manager was Dr Sharon Howard.
  • The technical officer responsible for programming the search engines is Jamie McLaughlin.
  • The Senior Data Developer, in charge of all the tagging procedures, was Dr Philippa Hardman.
  • The other Data Developers were Anna Bayman, Eilidh Garrett, Carol Lewis-Roylance, Susan Parkinson, Anna Simmons, Gwen Smithson, Nicola Wilcox, and Catherine Wright.
  • The London researcher was Mary Clayton.
  • The technical officers responsible for the automated markup were Ed MacKenzie and Katherine Rogers.
  • Project staff who worked on the 1674-1834 phase of the project include Dr Louise Henson (Senior Data Developer), Dr John Black, Dr Edwina Newman, Kay O'Flaherty, and Gwen Smithson.

Funding Bodies

This project was made possible by the generous grants from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (in 2000 and 2005), the Big Lottery Fund (2001) and the Economic and Social Research Council (2005). Site improvements, intended to embed the website further in university research and teaching, were carried out in 2010-11, funded by the JISC e-Content & Digitisation programme. We are also grateful for assistance from the University of Hertfordshire, the Open University and the University of Sheffield.

Back to Top

Technical Methods

Digitisation of Images

Starting with microfilms of the original Proceedings and Ordinary's Accounts, page images were scanned to create high definition, 400dpi TIFF files, from which GIF and JPEG files have been created for transmission over the internet. The uncompressed TIFF files will be preserved for archival purposes, and should eventually be accessible over the web once data transmission speeds improve. A GIF format has been used to transmit image files for the Proceedings published between 1674 and 1834. Proceedings published between 1834 and 1913, and also the Ordinary's Accounts have been posted in a JPEG format. These images can be accessed by clicking on the thumbnail icon to the right of the text, and allow readers to compare the searchable rekeyed text with scanned images of the original published pages.

Digitisation of the images was performed by the Higher Education Digitisation Service at the University of Hertfordshire.

Back to Top

Text Rekeying: Advantages and Limitations

In order to create a fully searchable resource, it was necessary to digitise the text (and not just scan page images) of the Proceedings and Ordinary's Accounts. Only then could the text be searched for character strings, and "marked up" to facilitate structured searching.

The text of the 1674 to October 1834 Proceedings was manually typed by the process known as "double rekeying", whereby the text is typed in twice, by two different typists, and then the two transcriptions are compared by computer. Differences are identified and then resolved manually. This process was also used to create a transcription of the Ordinary's Accounts.

The text of the November 1834 to 1913 Proceedings was manually keyed once and a second transcription was created using optical character recognition (OCR) software. The two files were then compared and differences between them manually resolved.

With the exception of approximately two hundred pages of the most difficult seventeenth-century Proceedings (which were transcribed by project staff), these processes were managed by the Higher Education Digitisation Service.

With a perfectly clear original text, these methodologies result in an accuracy rate well over 99%. However, the seventeenth and eighteenth-century originals are often faded or suffer from "bleed through" (where print on the other side of the page interferes with the text), and these defects have sometimes been exacerbated by the processes of microfilming and image digitisation. Consequently, not all text could be transcribed with optimal accuracy. By clicking on the thumbnail icon of the original page, you will be able to see an image of the original and interpret the text for yourself.

Where a perfectly accurate reading of the text is required, users are strongly advised to open the original page image files and read the original.

Back to Top

Markup

The digitised text can be searched for any character string, but in order to facilitate structured searching and the generation of statistics, the text was also "marked up" in XML. Trials tend to have a regular structure (though with considerable minor variations) and certain aspects of the text were tagged to reflect the meaning of particular words or phrases, for example names and crimes. In order to create meaningful and consistent statistics, certain subcategories of information were also identified, such as types of verdict. The following categories of information have been marked up:

  • * Crime (divided into 9 general categories and 56 specific types)
  • Crime date
  • Crime location
  • Defendant name
  • Defendant status or occupational label
  • * Defendant gender
  • Alias names used by the defendant and the victim
  • Defendant location
  • Victim name
  • Victim status or occupational label
  • * Victim gender
  • Judges' names
  • Jury names
  • Other person names (see below)
  • * Verdicts (divided into 4 general categories and 23 specific types)
  • * Punishments (divided into 6 general categories and 26 specific types)
  • * Defendant's age (only regularly provided for convicts from 1789)
  • Advertisements

* Tagged fields labelled by an asterisk can be tabulated statistically.

The markup was done by a combination of automated and manual processes.

Most of the 1674 to October 1834 markup was done manually by a team of five data developers working at the Humanities Research Institute at the University of Sheffield (see project staff).

However, person names were tagged using an automated markup programme, GATE, developed by the Department of Computer Science at the University of Sheffield and specially customised to process the text of the Proceedings. Most of the 1674-1834 trial proceedings were run through GATE, which was able to identify approximately 80-90% of the names in the text. GATE was asked only to identify names where both a forename (not just an initial) and surname were given. The names not identified by this programme were not regularly marked up manually unless they were the names of defendants or victims.

The November 1834 to 1913 text was first run through an automated markup process. This process was carried out by HRI Digital at the Humanities Research Institute.

Remaining markup, including checking of the results of the automated markup, was carried out by a team of eight data developers employed by the University of Hertfordshire (see project staff).

Search Engine

All of the search and statistics features are implemented using MySQL. The marked up texts were first processed using Saxon to create tab delimited data files. These files were then imported into MySQL, indexed and modified in order to enable the various search features. This process was carried out by HRI Digital at the Humanities Research Institute.

Website Design

Mark Hadley designed the website.

Back to Top

Advertising Policy

The Old Bailey Proceedings Online is a not-for-profit project whose sole objective is to make the Proceedings of the Old Bailey available to all internet users free of charge. Since it costs money to maintain the site, and the grants which funded the creation of the website have all ended, it is necessary to obtain separate funding to ensure its continuation. For this reason, since April 2008 the site has included advertising. All profits derived from the advertising will be devoted to maintaining the site. The management of these funds is governed by a formal agreement between the Universities which created the site: the Open University, and the Universities of Hertfordshire and Sheffield.

User Analysis and Site Improvements: The Crime in the Community Project

Funding from the JISC Impact & Embedding Digitised Resources Programme for a project, Crime in the Community: Enhancing User Engagement for Teaching & Research with the Old Bailey Online enabled us to carry out the first comprehensive analysis of site usage. The user analysis report, completed in December 2010, can be downloaded as a pdf file.

Based on the conclusions of this study, a series of new tools and online facilities to enable teachers and researchers to make more effective use this website were implemented in March 2011. These include the creation of user workspaces, the introduction of a series of tutorials and study guides, and some search improvements. For more information, see What's New (March 2011).

A Complementary Resource: London Lives

A sister website, London Lives, 1690-1800: Crime, Poverty and Social Policy in the Metropolis was launched in June 2010. Containing records relating to crime, poverty, and social policy in eighteenth-century London, London Lives is a fully searchable edition of 240,000 manuscripts from eight archives and fifteen datasets, giving access to 3.35 million names. In addition to the Ordinary's Accounts and Old Bailey Proceedings up to 1819 which are also available on this website, London Lives includes a wide range of additional criminal records including all surviving manuscript sessions papers and coroner's records from eighteenth-century London; the records of Bridewell, the house of correction for the City of London; and the Home Office Criminal Registers from 1791.

A conference to mark the completion of this project was held on 5 July 2010 at the University of Hertfordshire, and podcasts of the papers are available.

Back to Top

The Old Bailey Online and Federated Searching: Connected Histories and 18thConnect

The Old Bailey Proceedings Online can be searched through two federated search engines which provide access to collections of peer reviewed electronic sources in British history and literature. Search results provide users with direct links to the relevant full texts on this and other websites.

Connected Histories: Sources for Building British History, 1500-1900 provides access to several major electronic sources in British history, including both the Old Bailey Proceedings Online and London Lives. Please note that in Connected Histories the Old Bailey trials are not available through the London Lives site.

18thConnect: Eighteenth-Century Scholarship Online provides access to digital editions of a wide range of mainly printed sources.

Back to Top

Mapping Old Bailey Evidence: Locating London's Past

Locating London's Past, funded by the JISC e-Content Programme and launched in December 2011, allows place name data from the Proceedings to be be mapped onto a fully rasterised and georeferenced edition of John Rocque's 1746 map of London and the first accurate modern Ordinance Survey Map (1869-80). Users can compare crime locations and defendant residences in Old Bailey trials with evidence of parish population densities; geographical data from London Lives; plague and taxation records from the Centre for Metropolitan History; and archaeological records of clay pipes and accessioned glass from the Museum of London Archaeology Service.

Back to Top

Awards

In January 2004 this website was selected as the overall winner of the 2003 Cybrarian Project Awards, in recognition of "outstanding effort and contribution towards the accessibility and usability of online information via their design". The Cybrarian Project was established by the E-Learning Strategy Unit of the UK Department of Education and Science.

In December 2008 this website was a finalist for a British Computer Society Project Excellence IT award, under the category "Social Contribution".

In January 2011 co-directors Tim Hitchcock and Robert Shoemaker were awarded the Longman-History Today Trustees Award for their "major contribution to history over the past year or years" for the "groundbreaking" Old Bailey and London Lives projects, "that point the way to the future of the discipline".

Back to Top

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the following institutions and individuals for their generous help with the project:

  • The funding bodies, particularly our major funders, the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Big Lottery Fund, for making this project possible.
  • The libraries and archives (listed under Copyright Information) who permitted us to use page images of their original copies of the Proceedings and Ordinary's Accounts.
  • The Gale Group, who under their former imprint Harvester Microfilm, published the microfilm collection of the Proceedings from 1714-1834, for facilitating the use of their collection.
  • Hudson House Associates, Inc., who under the imprint of Trans-Media Microfilms, published the Proceedings 1834-1913, for permission to use their edtition in creating this resource.
  • Ben Bankhurst, for voluntarily transcribing the narratives of the lives of poor convicts from the records of the London Refuge for the Destitute, and Libby Adams, Principal Archivist of the London Borough of Hackney Archives, for permission to include these records in the Associated Records database.
  • David Lingwood, who contributed to the project as a postgraduate student intern in the winter of 2008.
  • Patrick Mannix and Motco Enterprises Limited who provided the London map images.
  • Images of some pre-1715 sessions Proceedings are reproduced here courtesy of and with thanks to ProQuest Information and Learning Company as part of Early English Books Onlineā„¢. Inquiries may by made to: ProQuest Information and Learning Company, 300 North Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1346 USA. Telephone (734) 761-7400; E-mail: info@il.proquest.com.
  • The London Metropolitan Archives and its Head Archivist, Dr Deborah Jenkins, for facilitating the provision of information about associated records related to trials in the Proceedings.
  • The Humanities Research Institute, University of Sheffield, its former director Professor David Shepherd, and its current Digital Manager, Michael Pidd, for providing extensive technical and secretarial support for the project as well as a congenial home for the project staff.
  • Professor Mark Greengrass, former director of the Humanities Research Institute, for his encouragement and inspiration during the first phase of the project.
  • Simon Tanner, now of King's College, London, and Geoff Laycock, now of A Database, both formerly of HEDS, for developing the scanning and rekeying processes and implementing them on the 1674-1834 text.
  • The Higher Education Digitisation Service, University of Hertfordshire, and in particular Asif Mohammed Farook and Ian Brearey for managing the scanning and rekeying of the post-1834 Proceedings and the Ordinary's Accounts; and Brian Robinson former Director of HEDS.
  • Michael Pidd, of the Humanities Research Institute, who provided the groundwork technical advice in the early stages of the project.
  • All those users, particularly Andrea McKenzie and John Styles, who have informed us of errors or missing content on this website.

Back to Top