Photo of Dr Richard Ward

Dr Richard Ward

Lecturer in Digital History


01392 724324

I am an historian of crime, justice and punishment in Britain, c.1700-1850, with a particular interest in digital approaches to the subject.

My research focuses on four main issues:

  1. The reporting of crime and justice in print culture
  2.  Capital punishment
  3.  Convicts and the "Information State"
  4.  Digital histories of crime

Since completing a Ph.D. in 2011, I have worked on two major research projects:

My first monograph, Print Culture, Crime and Justice in Eighteenth-Century London, was published with Bloomsbury in 2014, and I recently edited  A Global History of Execution and the Criminal Corpse.

I design and teach modules on crime history, digital history and eighteenth-century Britain, and I also contribute to modules on historical research skills and the early modern period.

I am interested in how digital technologies can enhance public engagement with, and the impact of, academic research into crime history.

Research interests

In general, I research crime, justice and punishment in Britain, c.1700-1850. Specifically, I have investigated:

  • The reporting of crime and justice in print culture
  • Capital punishment and the treatment of the criminal corpse
  • Record-keeping about convicts
  • Convict lives

I am particularly interested in digitial approaches to the subject, and have been involved in the development of several major digital history projects, including:

My current research focuses on how the "character" of offenders was defined and recorded in nineteenth-century England, and what impact an offender's perceived character had upon their treatment within the criminal justice system.

I have previously received funding from the following sources:

  • Faculty of Arts & Humanities, University of Sheffield
  • Department of History, University of Sheffield
  • Marc Fitch fund
  • Institute of Historical Research
  • Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)

Research supervision

I am especially happy to consider supervising students with interests in the following areas:

  • The history of crime, justice and punishment in Britain and its colonies, c.1500-1900
  • The social and cultural history of eighteenth-century Britain
  • The history of the newspaper press
  • Digital history

External impact and engagement

I am interested in how digital technologies can enhance public engagement with, and the impact of, academic research into crime history.

With Lucy Williams (University of Liverpool), I recently submitted an application to the AHRC's "Follow-On Funding for Impact and Engagement Scheme" to fund a project on Developing Digital Desistance Software. The aim of the project is to develop a digital resource for Youth Offending Teams that will educate young offenders about the factors that helped to steer past generations of juveniles away from lives of crime.

I have previously been involved in various other public engagement and impact activities, including:

  • Community engagement

2015 - Carillion Library Showcase events: demonstrating the Digital Panopticon website to non-academic researcers.

2010 - Assistant on the Crime in the Community project: enhancing user engagement for teaching and research wih the Old Bailey Online website.

  • Public presentations

2015 - Paper delivered at the Local Population Studies Society Conference, Oxford.

2014 - Paper delivered at the Galleries of Justice, Nottingham

  • Exhibitions

(Forthcoming, 2018) - Contributing materials and delivering a workshop as part of a Digital Panopticon exhibition at the London Metropolitan Archives.

2017 - Contributing material to an online exhibition on The Criminal Corpse.

  • Blog posts

I have written numerous blog posts for the Digital Panopticon and Harnessing the Power of the Criminal Corpse projects.

Contribution to discipline

I am/have been a member of the following networks and associations:

  • British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies
  • Centre for Criminological Research, University of Sheffield
  • Centre for the Study of Journalism and History, Sheffield
  • Our Criminal Past network
  • Sheffield Centre for Early Modern Studies

I have been a peer reviewer for the following journals and publishers:

  • American Journal of Legal History
  • Continuity & Change
  • Crime, History & Societies
  • Cultural History
  • Eighteenth-Century Studies
  • Law, Crime & History

I have been particularly active in promoting awareness of the issues faced by, and improving the support provided for, Early Career Researchers (ECRs, aka "Postdocs") within the Arts and Humanities. ECRs make an important, but often overlooked, contribution to research environments. This included co-developing a series of events on the theme of Tuning in to the Value of Research Staff.


I have ten years' experience of designing and teaching history modules at university level. This has included:

  • The history of crime, justice and punishment in Britain, c.1700-1850
  • The social and cultural history of early modern Europe
  • Early modern English local history
  • Digital history

I am passionate about student-centred teaching and am committed to making learning as interactive, engaging and fulfilling as possible.

My aim is to provide students with the skills and encouragement to enable them to learn for themselves, both in their degree and their subsequent careers.

In terms of digital history in particular, I want students to do three key things:

  1.  Explore how digital technologies have been applied to the researching and writing of history.
  2.  Critically assess the extent to which this represents a truly significant change from previous, non-digital approaches.
  3.  Get hands on and practice using these digital technologies themselves.


Modules taught


I was born and raised in Hull, and went on to study for a BA and MA in History at the University of Sheffield, where I also completed a Ph.D. in History in 2011, supervised by Professor Robert Shoemaker.

I subsequently worked as a research associate on two major, collaborative projects. First, from 2011-2013, the Harnessing the Power of the Criminal Corpse project at the University of Leicester (funded by the Wellcome Trust). And secondly, from 2013 to August 2017, the Digital Panopticon project (funded by the AHRC).

In September 2017 I was appointed to a Lectureship in Digital History at the University of Exeter.