I thought, if you were interested enough to read my output, you would be interested enough to want to get straight to the source material. So, I have put together a limited selection of free online resources that are of great use to me and a great place to start – these are by no means definitive, but they are fantastic starting points. There is a heavy emphasis on London as most of the surviving resources and work on public execution is London based, but it is fascinating none the less.
I have also included a few subscription services, but I think that they are amazingly valuable resources and for the price of a few pints/coffees/mojitos/fair-trade smoothies (delete as appropriate) a month are really great value.
Enjoy, in no particular order, and i will try and add to this list as i find more along the way.
Old Bailey Proceedings Online – A fully searchable edition of the largest body of texts detailing the lives of non-elite people ever published, containing 197,745 criminal trials held at London’s central criminal court.
Ordinary of Newgate’s Accounts – Connected to the Old Bailey Proceedings Online, this is a comprehensive collection of the Chaplain (Ordinary) of Newgate prison’s details of all the people who were executed, including accounts of their person, crime and speeches at the gallows.
Dying Speeches & Bloody Murders – Harvard Law libraries’ brilliant collection of more than 500 broadsides (single sheet publications, most commonly used for “Last Dying Speeches”) is one of the largest recorded and the first to be digitised in its entirety. The examples digitised here span 1707 to 1891 and include accounts of executions for such crimes as arson, assault, counterfeiting, horse stealing, murder, rape, robbery, and treason. Many of the broadsides vividly describe the results of sentences handed down at London’s central criminal court, the Old Bailey.
Locating London‘s Past – A fully searchable version of John Rocque’s 1746 map of London. You can search for, amongst other things, all crimes in the region and map them geographically. It’s brilliant – like a very violent version of Google Maps (The only disappointment is that the streetview setting is modern day – a part of me secretly hoped they’d have figured a time travel setting by now – come on Google!).
North East Newspapers – Newcastle Central Library has a great selection of newspapers dating back to the early 1700’s available on microfilm. Alternatively, you can find sign up to the British Newspaper Archive below.
British Newspaper Archives – I have just recently found this myself and as someone who is a big fan of the papers (usually the Review and Crossword sections) this is an incredible resource. Hundreds of regional newspapers dating back hundreds of years. It’s a goldmine of tittle tattle and tragedy.
The Word on the Street – A fantastic online collection of nearly 1,800 Scottish Broadsides from between 1650 and 1910. Each broadside is downloadable and has a full transcription of the text.
North East: A great starting point is the work of my Professor Peter Rushton and his co author Gwenda Morgan – Rogues, thieves and the rule of law. Also, for a Policeman’s take on the subject, check out the numerous publications by former Police Chief Superintendent and North East crime buff Barry Redfern, specifically The Gallows Tree.
That’s plenty to get you started. Don’t overdo it.