The Digital History of Crime in Britain, 1700-1900 (HIH1041)

StaffDr Richard Ward - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level4
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The aim of the module is to introduce you to the broad range of digitised sources available to the modern historian, through study of the main developments relating to the digital history of crime in Britain between 1700 and 1900. It will help to develop your understanding of what “Digital History” involves, and to develop your critical awareness of its strengths, limitations and how it differs from other methods of research. It will develop your digital research skills, including your ability to exploit the full potential of digitised historical resources. This will be invaluable for your future historical work. You will also develop your understanding of key features of the history of crime and punishment in Britain between 1700 and 1900, such as the transportation of convicts to Australia; changing patterns of crime and sentencing; capital punishment; the rise of the prison; and the emergence of the modern police force.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Understand and assess the main developments in the digital history of crime in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain.
  • 2. Work critically with a range of written and visual sources relating to the topic.
  • 3. Assess the sources in relation to the historical debates, purposes for which different contemporary sources were produced, and analyse and evaluate their reliability and usefulness for the study of the history of crime in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Identify the problems of using historical sources, e.g. utility, limitations, etc, and compare the validity of different types of sources.
  • 5. Answer a question briefly and concisely.
  • 6. Present work orally, respond to questions orally, and think quickly of questions to ask other students.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Conduct independent study and group work, including the presentation of material for group discussion, developed through the mode of learning.
  • 8. Digest, select and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment.
  • 9. Work with others in a team and to interact effectively with the tutor and the wider group.
  • 10. Write to a very tight word-length.

Syllabus plan

A lecture in the first week will provide an introduction to the major developments in the historiography of crime in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain, and to “Digital History”.


Each of the following nine weeks will be devoted to analysing a particular type of digitised resource or digital research skill/method. Topics may include:


Digitised Sources

Full Texts (including the Old Bailey Proceedings Online and British Library Newspapers)

Visual and Material Sources (including British Museum Prints and Drawings and Convict Love Tokens)

Single Datasets (including the British Transportation Registers Online)

Linked Datasets (including Founders and Survivors and the Digital Panopticon)

Maps (including Locating London’s Past)


Digital Research Skills/Methods

Data Mining

Corpus Analysis

Record Linkage and Life-Course Analysis

Data Visualisations, Mapping and Digital Reconstructions


The final session in Week 12 will be a review and discussion of the themes of the course as a whole, including reflecting on key questions such as: in what ways, and to what extent, have digital technologies transformed the sources and study of crime history? What is the nature of the relationship between the sources available to historians, the research questions they want to pursue and the digital technologies that exist?

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities22 hour lecture: Introduction to module
Scheduled learning and teaching activities2010 x 2 hour seminars. At a meeting of the whole class generally a different group of 3-4 students will give a presentation to the whole class, followed by class discussion and working through the sources for that week carefully. Additional sources may be issued in the class and the lecturer will also use the time to set up issues for the following week
Guided independent study128Students prepare for the session through reading and research; writing five source commentaries and an essay and preparing one group presentation in the course of the term

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group presentation (3-4 students)10-15 minutes1-4, 6-7, 9Oral
Lowest mark from portfolio of 5 source commentaries500 words1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
4 highest marks from portfolio of 5 source commentaries602000 words (500 per commentary)1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments
Essay on Sources401500 words1-5, 7-8, 10Mark and written comments

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
4 highest marks of portfolio of 5 source commentaries4 highest marks of portfolio of 5 source commentaries1-5, 7-8, 10Referral/deferral period
1500-word essay1500-word essay1-5, 7-8, 10Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

On the practice of Digital History in general:

  • Cohen, Daniel, and Rosenzweig, Roy, Digital History (Philadelphia, 2006).

  • Greengrass, Mark, and Hughes, Lorna (eds), The Virtual Representation of the Past (Aldershot, 2008).

  • Hitchcock, Tim, ‘Confronting the Digital: or How Academic History Writing Lost the Plot’, Cultural and Social History 10 (2013), pp. 9–23.

  • Weller, Martin, The Digital Scholar: How Technology is Transforming Scholarly Practice (2011).


On the history of crime in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain:

  • Beattie, J. M., Crime and the Courts in Britain, 1660–1800 (Oxford, 1986).

  • King, Peter, Crime, Justice and Discretion in England 1740–1820 (Oxford, 2000).

  • Hitchcock, Tim, and Shoemaker, Robert, London Lives: Poverty, Crime and the Making of a Modern City, 1690–1800 (Oxford, 2016).


On key developments in the digital history of crime in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain:

  • Crone, Rosalind, ‘Crime and its Fabrication: A Review of New Digital Resources in the History of Crime’, Journal of Victorian Culture 14 (2009), pp. 125–134.

  • Hitchcock, Tim, and Shoemaker, Robert, ‘Digitising History from Below: The Old Bailey Proceedings Online, 1674–1834’, History Compass 4 (2006), pp. 193–202.

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Howard, Sharon, ‘Tales of the Unexpected: or, What Can Happen when you Let a Bunch of Criminals Loose on the Internet’ (2013),

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

Digital History, Crime, Punishment, Britain, Eighteenth Century, Nineteenth Century