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Thread: The digitised Old Bailey.

  1. #1 The digitised Old Bailey. 
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    Reference : new Scientist, 28 June 2014, page 37

    London's Old Bailey has records dating back nearly 400 years. Records of roughly 200,000 trials which are now in digital format, running to 137 million words. It is now possible to use computer analysis to draw historical trends out of those records. The obvious start is to record the frequency of various words used over time. This reveals changes in the way the people of those various times thought.

    For example, there is a lower frequency of words relating to violence, but a higher frequency of words relating to property crime for the first several hundred years of those records. Yet we know that violence was actually greater in those earlier years. It appears that being hit, stabbed, mauled etc., was considered less of a crime than having stuff stolen off you! Perhaps violence was such a normal part of everyday life that no one paid it much attention???

    But by the end of the 19th century, people were regarding violence as a separate type of crime, and one that was more serious.

    Other archives are now being digitised. eg. The parliamentary debates during the French Revolution. This was, it appears, a very turbulent and chaotic time. What might we learn about underlying causes?

    A more recent effort is to digitise the US congressional debates over the last 30 years. A detailed computer analysis may reveal some most interesting things about American politicians and their real attitudes and ideas!


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    ox
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    A world of bare-knuckle fights, debtors' prisons, long working hours and grinding poverty for many, military service as a way out of poverty, poor or non-existent healthcare would point to different values then.


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