The Old Bailey Online

Award Information

Discipline: History
Funding opportunity: Other: Resource Enhancement PRE-FEC
Areas of Impact: Creative Industries; Culture and heritage; Supporting education
Lead RO: University of Herfordshire
Region: East of England

The Old Bailey Online contains details on 197,745 criminal trials which took place at the Old Bailey Court between 1674 and 1913. It is freely available online and represents one of the biggest resources of its kind.

The website has been massively used by a wide range of people from across the globe with five million visits from 218 countries. A survey of visitors to the website in 2010 showed that it not only provides support for scholarly research but was also commonly used for family history, university teaching and leisure reading.

It has also provided the inspiration for a number of successful TV and radio programmes. The BBC used it as the basis for the fictional TV series 'Garrows Law', which reached 60 million viewers and for a five part factual drama produced for schools titled 'Tales from the Old Bailey'. The website featured even more prominently in the BBC Radio 4 show 'Voices from the Old Bailey', which ran for three series between 2010 and 2014. It was the fourth most popular programme on Radio 4 in 2010 and each programme reached almost two million listeners.

It is even used as source material for the English Oxford Dictionary. In July 2013, John Simpson, then Chief Editor of the dictionary, stated that “If we’re dealing with a term from the criminal underworld of London in 1850, we’re as likely to have a quotation from [the Old Bailey Online] as we are from one of Dickens’ novels.”

Three new resources have widened the use and reach of this resource. London Lives, launched 2010, contains records related to crime, poverty and social policy in eighteenth century London. Locating London’s Past, launched 2011, allows place names from the Old Bailey Proceedings to be mapped onto John Rocque’s 1746 map of London and the first accurate modern Ordinance Survey Map (1869-80). More recently, it has been used a source for the Digital Panopticon which is comparing the penal outcomes of convicts who were sentenced to transportation to Australia with those who were imprisoned in Britain.

In January 2011 Tim Hitchcock (University of Hertfordshire) and Robert Shoemaker (University of Sheffield), co-Project Leads, were awarded the Longman-History Today Trustees Award for their “major contribution to history.” The award was given for the ground breaking Old Bailey Online and follow-up London Lives projects “…that point the way to the future of the discipline.” The website was also praised by Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts who commented that it “…provide[s] a valuable resource to academics and researchers as well as source material for creative industries.”

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