Old Bailey and London Lives News

We’ve just completed some updates to both the Old Bailey Online and London Lives websites. Some users may experience strange behaviour and error messages on either site: if so please refresh your browser (try a ‘hard’ refresh: CTRL-F5 on Windows, CMD-SHIFT-R on Mac) or clear the browser cache.

Here are the highlights of the updates:

Old Bailey Online

The most significant component of the update is completing the integration and documentation of the recently launched Old Bailey API. The API was developed by the Data Mining with Criminal Intent project, and enables users to exploit the 127 million words of text on this website in new ways, with more complex queries than is possible using the existing search tools on this website. It also allows you to export the results of your queries for analysis by other tools such as Zotero and Voyant Tools.

There are two facets to OBAPI: the Demonstrator enables users to build queries and export texts through a familiar search interface, while more advanced users and developers can work with the API directly. There is also a new statistics facility, developed by the Datamining with Criminal Intent project, that allows more complex graphing and visualisation of trial data and text: The Old Bailey Data Warehousing Interface.

London Lives

This was London Lives’ first update, and the main change has been making keyword search the default search form. The original choice to make name searches the default reflected the priorities of the Plebeian Lives research project of which the website was part, whereas this emphasises the wide range of searchable text available on this website and we think it will better serve a wider range of site users. (All the other search options are still available.)

Other updates include making links from document display pages to background information easier to spot, and some bug fixes. We’ve also added a handful of new Lives (with more to come in a few weeks’ time), including a great piece about Mary Broadbent by Janice Liedl.

We’ve made some corrections to the tagging and transcriptions of both resources and are, as always, very grateful to site users who reported errors (even the ones we didn’t have time to fix in this update).


We’ve modified and extended the advice on citation in response to the changing character of best web practice, requests for a form of citation for the projects as a whole, and in order to capture more fully the specific contributions of the individuals involved.

Present and Future

Both websites are in pretty rude health. Visitor traffic at Old Bailey Online is unsurprisingly much larger than for London Lives, with around 2,500 visits per day and 500 per day respectively. The numbers for London Lives have possibly grown slightly since last summer when we first started recording this information with Google Analytics, but Old Bailey Online (after substantial growth from 2008 to 2010, which was analysed in our Crime in the Community impact report [pdf] last year) seems to have been fairly stable over the last year (with the odd short-term spike due to media publicity and the like).

While we don’t have any major development plans in the near future, there have been a series of related projects since 2009 that have led in three different directions: federated search (Connected Histories), GIS (Locating London), and datamining (Criminal Intent).  Bob Shoemaker and Tim Hitchcock are currently completing an e-monograph for CUP that is directly based on London Lives, and will link the book to the individual resources it makes available. The e-monograph reflects a wider commitment to rethinking the form and process of publishing history.

Like many digital projects, it’s all a work in progress that reflects both individual interests and the structural limitations and opportunities presented by funding bodies and institutions. Overall, and as the follow on sites suggest the direction of development is towards more, and more linked data, new forms of visualisation and analysis, and ‘big data’ methodologies.

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