This website documents an evolving set of digital history projects by Sharon Howard. The focus of the projects is on the re-use, enhancement and exploration of data from London Lives 1690-1800 and the Old Bailey Online.

London Lives is a major digital edition of primary sources about eighteenth-century London, with a particular focus on the poor and crime. The Old Bailey Online is a digital edition of “the largest body of texts detailing the lives of non-elite people ever published”, containing reports of almost 200,000 trials held at the Old Bailey between 1674 and 1913.

Sources and Data

The first step of the projects was to locate and reshape relevant source material in London Lives and Old Bailey Online into new datasets that enable different kinds of exploration and analysis using digital tools. The new datasets are shared under Creative Commons licences for re-use by other researchers.


The first project was the London Lives Petitions Project in 2015 which extracted about 10,000 petitions from almost 100,000 pages of assorted Stuff in Sessions Papers.

  • text and metadata for about 10,000 petitions
  • data for petitioners (names, gender, etc)


This project extracted data about examinants and their families from the Settlement, bastardy and vagrancy examinations of two London parishes in London Lives (the term “pauper examinations” is used for general reference)

  • names data (c. 28,000 names)
  • a text corpus of the examinations (c.11,000 exams)
  • enhancement of the names data, eg settlements and marriages/cohabitations
  • a related dataset of Removal Orders (c. 3000 names)

Coroners Inquests

At present, this consists of a catalogue for almost 3000 Westminster Coroners’ Inquests 1760-99 with text data for inquisitions. There are more record series to be added, and possibly texts of witness examinations.

Old Bailey Voices

Speech data for Old Bailey defendants between 1750 and 1900.

  • all tagged speech for single defendant trials in the Old Bailey Corpus 1780-1880 in which the defendant speaks (c.21000 trials) and accompanying summary data for defendants
  • defence statements in Old Bailey Online 1751-1900 (c.70,000 statements) with defendants metadata

Further data collection and linkage plans

  • a small but rich collection of Pauper Letters
  • further pauper examinations in Sessions Papers and in an early 18th-century “register” of examinations
  • documents associated with petitions in the Sessions Papers, especially information on outcomes
  • various documents related to bastardy examinations (bastardy bonds, registers of poor children, etc)
  • Middlesex and City & Southwark coroners inquests

In the longer term, I hope that some of this data will find its way back into London Lives and Old Bailey Online.


The London Lives data projects research began as two separate projects primarily focused on data collection and remixing, which have gradually converged and begun to develop more focused research ideas, influenced by my interests in digital tools and methods, early modern crime and women’s history. The addition of coroners records is a work in progress.

The second strand on “Voices” is developing from research for the Digital Panopticon research theme, Voices of Authority. I’m exploring the changing significance of defendants’ own words in court following the ‘coming of the lawyers’, from about 1750-1900.

Work in Progress

For updates, follow me on Twitter or my data blog In Her MInd’s Eye.


The datasets have been created using the XML transcriptions published at the London Lives and Old Bailey Online websites. I am deeply grateful to Tim Hitchcock and Bob Shoemaker, the project directors, for agreeing to share this data.