Page last updated at 23:51 GMT, Sunday, 27 April 2008 00:51 UK

Historic Bailey trials go online

Painting of court session circa 1809
Some of the most sensational cases ever to be tried in Britain are detailed

The crimes of Dr Crippen, Oscar Wilde and the suffragettes are among those detailed online on an expanded website.

Some 200,000 trials are now on the Old Bailey Proceedings site, taking the court coverage from 1674 to 1913.

The project's directors say the site conveys not only the drama of the trials, but also a wealth of details about ordinary life at the time.

Crimes detailed include pickpocketing, terrorism, murder and stealing a ship to use in the slave trade.

The Proceedings - accounts of the trials at the Old Bailey, also known as London's Central Criminal Court - were initially targeted at a popular audience, but over the years the audience narrowed to lawyers and public officials.

Treasure trove

They reflect changes in public attitudes to crime and punishment - one case concerns a 13-year-old boy who was sentenced to death in 1835 for burgling the house of his former master.

If you want to know how to order a plate of oysters in an East End pub, or what not to wear to church in Islington, the information is all here
Professor Tim Hitchcock, University of Hertfordshire

Some of the most sensational cases ever to be tried in Britain are detailed, including that of Dr Hawley Harvey Crippen, who killed his wife and set up with his lover before fleeing to Canada.

Also detailed is Oscar Wilde's conviction for indecency, which saw the writer jailed.

Professor Robert Shoemaker from the University of Sheffield, a co-director of the project, said the "treasure trove" of social, legal and family history had previously been available only to a few dedicated historians.

"Now everyone from schoolchildren and amateur historians to scholars working in a range of academic disciplines can have easy access to this wealth of information," he said.

Researchers from the Universities of Sheffield and Hertfordshire, and the Open University, worked on adding the new trial details to the existing site.

Professor Tim Hitchcock, from the University of Hertfordshire, said: "If you want to know how to order a plate of oysters in an East End pub, or what not to wear to church in Islington, the information is all here.

"Besides the desperate drama of crimes punished, the Proceedings give us a new and remarkable access to the everyday."





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