The Old Bailey

This is fascinating.  The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, the main law court in London from 1674 to 1834 are now online.  You can search by sentence, crime, keywords, age of perpetrator, by name, or by year.  You can even see the scans of the actual documents.  Rich with detail, this is an incredible resource!

2 responses to “The Old Bailey

  1. You know, that’s one of the jobs you can do with an MLIS degree. It’s called a digital archivist. I think it would be kind of cool actually.

    Random but related and (hopefully) cool tangent: one of my professors discussed whether these online archives were a good thing or bad thing. He gave the example that he was working for a college that had a large collection of business correspondence from a long long time ago but no room, and he was digitizing and then burning the originals(!) When he was about 1/2 way through, a history professor came by and was very interested. He started smelling the letters, and my professor thought he was nuts so he asked what he was doing. The history professor said that during the plague, despite business men saying how great everything was going, if their mail smelled like vinegar, that meant the town was under plague quarantine, so it would be a dead (literally) giveaway that things weren’t going as well as they were saying (apparently the origin of that saying, actually). This history professor pointed out several letters that still had a vinegar smell, and my professor felt really bad, because he didn’t know how many of the ones he had already destroyed had had that smell, and now it was too late, and it was something that added another layer of meaning to them.

    SO! On one hand these databases are cool, because anyone can have access anywhere in the world, but on the other hand, nothing compares with actually having the real documents in your hands (and nose, apparently)

    • That’s fascinating! I think we should have both worlds, though. Online for those of us who can’t see the originals, but also save the originals for future study. It really disturbs me when I hear stories of the originals being destroyed after scanning. There’s a feeling you get holding history in your hand that just can’t happen on a computer screen.

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