The following is an edited and revised version of an article which was originally posted on October 18, 2010 – under the title “Crime And Punishment In The Internet Age”.
I’m a bit of an amateur historian, and I find accounts of daily life in bygone days fascinating – most particularly, aspects of crime and punishment. If you’re wondering why crime and punishment, it’s simply this – hidden in this type of accounting, one can generally find the unvarnished historical truth of social conditions of the time.
Naturally enough, I’m a big fan of The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 1674-1913, web site – “A fully searchable edition of the largest body of texts detailing the lives of non-elite people ever published, containing 197,745 criminal trials held at London’s central criminal court.”
This is quite an amazing site, and each transcript lays out, by and large, not only the techniques employed to apprehend criminals (from the 1600’s through to the early 1900’s), but an accounting of the trial testimony, and the punishment handed down on conviction.
For a bit of perspective on the past, checkout the Old Bailey site using your own family name. You never know – you might just find a forgotten relative.
Additional resources available:
What was it like to live in the first million person city in modern Western Europe? Crime, poverty, and illness; apprenticeship, work, politics and money; how people voted, lived and died; all this and more can be found in these documents.
Biographies of Executed Criminals, 1676-1772
The website includes the texts of all known surviving Ordinary of Newgate’s Accounts. These richly detailed narratives of the lives and deaths of convicts executed at Tyburn were published between 1676 and 1772.
For those of you who embrace the phrase “once it’s on the Internet, it’s out there forever”, you might be surprised to see, that in fact – once “it’s” been noted virtually anywhere, (even as far back as 17th century England), it’s out there forever.
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