This is a fully searchable and growing online collection of over 100,000 criminal trials held at the Old Bailey, London's central criminal court, 1674-1834. The record for each trial provides a trial summary (crime, verdict, punishments, defendant's name and home, other trials, and a link to associated records) and the original text of the account of the proceedings. In addition, the web site provides digital images of over 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, a glossary, links to descriptions of published and manuscript materials relating to the trials covered in the Proceedings ("associated evidence"), a bibliography, and a special section for schools.
Type of Material:
A collection with lesson plans.
Research and teaching. Content could be used in Western Civilization, European History, or political science courses.
Identify Major Learning Goals:
To help students develop skills in several subject areas, including history, civics, literacy, and math.
Target Student Population:
Elementary through college undergraduate.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
The web site includes several articles that help site visitors understand and make use of the trial records. For example, the "Historical Background" section contains articles on "Policing in London," "Types of Crimes," "Trial Procedures," "Judges and Juries," "Verdicts," and "Punishment." The articles are clear and succinct; each contains bibliographical information and links to web sites where users might find other relevant information. The focus of the articles and of the trial record summary information, appropriately, is to facilitate use of the trial records rather than to provide scholarship based upon them.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
The "For Schools" section provides notes for teachers, articles that provide important background information, a timeline, a glossary, a bibliography, a small collection of images, and tasks for students. The tasks offer a wide range of activities for students at different educational levels, and teachers can easily create more activities by slightly modifying those provided. The supplemental resources do help students and teachers make use of this rich collection of materials. This web site is obviously relevant to classes in British history or legal history, but as the site authors point out, there are activities for students in other disciplines. The associated materials offer the opportunity to explore the representation of crime and trials in literature and art; the statistical search mechanism offers the opportunity for students to think about the use and representation of data.
The "primary sources" subsection of the "For Schools" section seems mis-named. One would expect a collection of primary sources rather than a brief essay focused on four paintings.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
The site is well-organized, easy to navigate, and well-maintained. The site authors do as much as possible to make it easy for users to move between major sections of the site as well as find the primary sources within the site that users need. First, links to each of the nine main sections are provided on the left side of each page, so a site user can easily can return home or to another main section no matter how deep into the site he or she has traveled. Second, the various search mechanisms that one can use to access the primary sources (the trial records and associated evidence) are impressive. Users can search the trial records by keyword; name; place and map search; crime, verdict, and punishment; date; and/or reference number. And users can search for information about associated evidence by name, offense, trial, document type, document title, holding library, and/or date. Furthermore, the advanced search mechanism allows users to create interesting groupings of records, and the statistical search mechanism allows them to graphically represent the results into a pie chart, a bar chart, or a table. The web site provides detailed, clear instructions for using the search mechanisms as well as recommendations about how to gather records for specific communities within London black people, lesbians and gay men, gypsies and travelers, the Irish, and Jews.
Other Issues and Comments:
This web site is a great resource, and students can have a lot of fun working with these materials while learning useful skills.
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