Friday, August 26, 2011

Take a visit to the Old Bailey

Archivists are doing wonderful things these days. For instance, they have made available to the whole world, for FREE

The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 1674-1913: 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.
The home page tells us that the project is
a collaboration between the Open University, and the Universities of Hertfordshire and Sheffield, this project was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Big Lottery Fund.
Doesn't Britain do interesting things with their lottery money? And how could you resist the Ordinary of Newgate's Accounts? The website calls this a "sister" site to the Proceedings of Old Bailey., which are the reports of the criminal courts. The Ordinary of Newgate is last words of condemned criminals as they went to execution. The "Ordinary" is the chaplain , one of whose perks was to publish for the public and sell, at quite a good profit, little pamphlets with these accounts. According to the site, the Ordinaries were raking in about 200 pounds a year in theearly 18th Century, selling the Accounts, and about 400 editions were published with the stories of some 2,500 executed criminals.

I do not know if every visitor will have the same experience. As delectable as the content is, the website was very slow and my computer became quite slow doing every task while I was connected to The Old Bailey. Perhaps it is just as well. The site would be an absolute time sink!

The decoration is the original drawing from William Hogarth, which became the basis for his painting and etching, The Idle 'Prentice Executed at Tyburn. It is commonly called "Industry and Idleness," and this original sketch is held by the British Museum, according to London Lives (, the website where I found the image, which also has a good deal of information on the period and the Ordinaries.

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