Monday, November 30, 2015

New Online Resources for Radical Historians (2)

Up Against the Law: Towards a Rounded View of Convicts’ Lives
"Digital Panopticon: An experimental interface"
In the context of prison history, the original Panopticon was a type of architecture designed to enable constant surveillance of the prisoners by those in authority over them, a significant part of the "great incarceration" story. The Digital Panopticon focuses on prisoners, using multiple sets of historical records to uncover their largely hidden history, from trial onwards,  "determining what impact crime and punishment had on their lives." Emissaries from the project have been running workshops; if a notice appears in a library near you headed something like "Trace & Explore Convicts' Lives", it's well worth checking it out.
This is an endeavour clearly very relevant to radical historians, and we have the chance not only to benefit from the research that has already gone into it but to help take it further. (There are stated "research themes" although users will no doubt develop their own as they go along.) The website is free to search, and to register in case you want to add links to someone's "life archive" if you find they turn up in more than one dataset, or in the same one more than once. Beginning by trying to follow the stories of the 90,000 people sentenced at The Old Bailey between 1780 and 1875, the data available already exceed these limits.

Some Examples of links recently added, with radical connections:
JOHN FROST in Criminal Register, June & September 1793
"For uttering Seditions words at the Percy Coffee house"

19th century
RICHARD CARLILE in 1831 and 1834, in Old Bailey Proceedings
"indicted for a libel" and "for a nuisance." [more on this to follow]
Newport Rising: (a different) John Frost and Zephaniah Williams (previously noted)

20th century
Suffragettes: EMMELINE PANKHURST in Old Bailey Proceedings, 1912 AND 1913
 "were tried upon an indictment charging them with conspiring together and with one Christabel Pankhurst to unlawfully and maliciously damage and inciting others to unlawfully and maliciously damage certain property, to wit, glass windows, the property of the liege subjects of our Lord the King. The 54 counts of the indictment are referred to in the legal argument on May 21." AND ", feloniously procuring and inciting a person or persons unknown to commit felony; unlawfully soliciting and inciting persons unknown to commit felony and certain misdemeanours."

The 1912 conspiracy trial is described in: E. Sylvia Pankhurst, The Suffragette MovementAn Intimate Account of Persons and Ideals(1931). Virago pbk. 1977. Bk.III, Ch. II, pp.386-392.

Often there is a lot of fascinating detail, and many records can be viewed in full.
The different sets of records - searchable singly or in combination - are, more or less:

Old Bailey Proceedings The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 1674-1913
Founders & Survivors (male and female):  "a partnership between historians, genealogists, demographers and population health researchers. It seeks to record and study the founding population of 73,000 men women and children who were transported to Tasmania. Many survived their convict experience and went on to help build a new society." 

Transportation Register: The British Convict transportation registers 1787-1867, "database compiled from the British Home Office (HO) records which are available on microfilm at all Australian State Libraries. You can find details for over 123 000 of the estimated 160 000 convicts transported to Australia in the 18th and 19th centuries - names, term of years, transport ships and more." 

Criminal Indent Convict records — State Records NSW Convict Indents list the convicts transported to New South Wales...

Bridewell Court of Governers [sic] Minute Books of the Court of Governors of Bridewell/St ... 

Coroners Inquest Records of inquests carried out by the coroner in England and Wales where a sudden, accidental, suspicious or unnatural death occurred...
Prison License [sic] (male and female): "Home Office and Prison Commission Licences... began to be issued in 1853 when the 1853 Penal Servitude Act officially substituted terms of transportation for terms of imprisonment. Licences granted convicts undertaking penal servitude freedom before the expiration of their sentence in a system closely modelled on the Australian ‘Ticket-of-Leave’. The licence system remained in place well into the twentieth century."

Memorial on Millbank commemorating transportees
Criminal Register [not sure about direct link for this]

Old Newgate

1 comment:

  1. The interface phase as referred to in this post and the worked examples was fun while it lasted but stopped several months ago at least. Those who signed up to it seem not to have been warned of its closing or about any plans to resume it in later stages, assuming the work in progress continues to progress. The website is still worth looking at, e.g. the Resources tab.