The Old Bailey Proceedings Online 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 1834. It allows access to 100,000 trials, 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 the 60,000 original pages of the Proceedings, advice on methods of searching this resource, information on the historical and legal background to trials at the Old Bailey, links to descriptions of published and manuscript materials relating to the trials covered in the Proceedings, and a special section for schools. Contemporary maps, and images and transcriptions of related manuscript and printed materials for the decade 1746 to 1755, have also been provided.
See also: Copyright Information
This project was made possible by the generous grants from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (Resource Enhancement Scheme) and the New Opportunities Fund (Digitisation of Learning Materials Fund). We are also grateful for assistance from the University of Hertfordshire and the University of Sheffield.
Starting with microfilms of the original Proceedings, page images were digitised, creating TIFF files, from which GIF files have been created for transmission over the internet. The TIFF files will be preserved for archival purposes, and should eventually be accessible over the web once data transmission capabilities improve. The GIF files, accessible by clicking on the thumbnail icon to the right of the text, allow readers to compare the searchable rekeyed text with digital images of the original published pages.
Digitisation of the images was performed by the Higher Education Digitisation Service.
In order to create a fully searchable resource, it was necessary to digitise the text (and not just page images) of the Proceedings. Only then could the text be searched for any character string desired. Current optical character recognition programmes cannot consistently read eighteenth-century fonts, particularly where the original pages are faded or damaged. Consequently, it was necessary to have the text manually typed. This was performed by the process known as 'double rekeying', whereby the text is typed in twice, by two different typists, and then the two files are compared by computer. Differences are identified and then resolved manually.
With a perfectly clear original text, this results in an accuracy rate of 99.8%. However, the seventeenth and eighteenth-century originals are often faded or suffer from 'bleed through' (where print on the other side of the page bleeds through), and these defects are sometimes exacerbated by the processes of microfilming and image digitisation. Consequently, not all text could be transcribed with optimal accuracy. Where rekeyers had particular difficulty reading text due to poor quality of the original, a symbol of a torn page appears on your screen next to the transcribed text. 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 thus advised to open the original page image files and read the original.
About two hundred pages of the most difficult seventeenth-century Proceedings were transcribed by project staff at the Humanities Research Institute. The remainder of the double rekeying was performed by the Higher Education Digitisation Service.
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:
Tagged fields labelled by an asterisk* can be tabulated statistically.
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 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 search engine for keyword and place name searching is Lucene. Searches of marked up elements of the text, and statistical tabulations, are conducted using MySQL to query a range of databases created from the original XML marked-up text using Saxon.
Users are advised to press the 'refresh' button on their browser to ensure you have the latest version of this page.
Version 4.2 of this website includes a number of mostly minor corrections. Some errors in the keyword, statistics, and crime, verdict and punishment search functions have been corrected, which means that searches conducted using this version of the website may produce slightly different (and more accurate) results than searches conducted previously. In addition, some broken links have been fixed and missing page images provided.
The edition of the Proceedings previously dated as January 1699 has now been correctly dated as a second publication of the Proceedings for December 1699; there is no surviving edition of the Proceedings for January 1699.
The bibliography has been updated to include relevant publications which have appeared in the last twelve months.
To assist enquirers, a page of Frequently Asked Questions has been added. If you are thinking of contacting us with a query please check here first to see if your question has been answered.
On 28 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.
From December 1834 to April 1913 the Proceedings continued to be published under the title of The Proceedings of the Central Criminal Court. We have received funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council to allow us to add all 100,000 trials to this website. The project is now underway and will be completed by September 2008, with the first tranche of trials likely to be posted in early 2008. For more information, see http://www.shef.ac.uk/hri/projects/projectpages/centralcriminalcourt.html. If you would like to be kept informed of the progress of this project, please fill in and submit the Notification form.
We have received funding from the Economic and Social Research Council to digitise a wide range of related printed and manuscript sources to create a comprehensive electronic edition of primary sources on criminal justice and the provision of poor relief and medical care in eighteenth-century London. This project, 'Plebeian Lives and the Making of Modern London, 1690-1800', will make it possible for the first time to reconstruct how 'ordinary' Londoners interacted with various government and charitable institutions in the course of their daily lives. By examining how individual Londoners participated in and manipulated these agencies for their own ends, this project will demonstrate how end users contributed to the development of these institutions. More generally, it will assess the role of plebeians in the evolution of social practices in the modern metropolis.
When completed in 2010, users of the website will be able to conduct combined searches of the Old Bailey Proceedings with these related sources. For more information about this project, see http://www.shef.ac.uk/hri/projects/projectpages/plebeianlives.html.
We would like to thank the following institutions and individuals for their generous help with the project:
We welcome your feedback on this web site.